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Boris Johnson Announces Sanctions On Five Russian Banks After Ukraine Escalation

5 min read

Boris Johnson said Putin's efforts "must fail" as he announced the "first barrage" of sanctions against Russia after troops advanced into eastern Ukraine on Monday night.

The Prime Minister said the UK was immediately launching sanctions of five major Russian banks and three Russian individuals in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Updating MPs on the actions, Johnson said they were the "first barrage" against the Kremlin, insisted further sanctions were ready to be deployed if the situation escalates.

The Prime Minister said Putin had "hurled false accusations and aspersions" against Ukraine when he announced Russia would formally recognise the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions before mobilising forces on the border.

"The deployment of these forces in sovereign Ukrainian territory amounts to a renewed invasion of that country," he said. "By denying Ukraine's legitimacy as a state, and presenting its very existence as a mortal threat to Russia, Putin is establishing the pre-text for a full-scale offensive."

Johnson said the sanctions against the five banks and three high net-worth individuals were the first move against Russia, but said the UK should "steel itself for a protracted crisis."

The Prime Minister said Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank would all be hit by sanctions, alongside Russian nationals Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg.

"Any assets they hold in the UK will be frozen, the individuals concerned will be banned from travelling here and we will prohibit all UK individuals and entities from having any dealings with them," he said.

He added: "Now the UK and its allies will begin to impose the sanctions on Russia that we have already prepared," he said. "Using the new and unprecedented granted by this House to sanction Russian individuals and entities of strategic importance to the Kremlin."

"This is the first tranche, the first barrage of what we are prepared to do, and we hold further sanctions at readiness to be deployed alongside the United States and the European Union if the situation escalates still further."

Labour leader Keir Starmer welcomed the initial steps, but said he believed the threshold for a full package of sanctions had already been "breached".

"We must be prepared to go further. I understand the tactic of holding back sanctions on Putin and his cronies to try to deter an invasion of the rest of Ukraine, but a threshold has already been breached," he said.

"A sovereign nation has been invaded in a war of aggression based on lies and fabrication. If we do not respond with a full set of sanctions now, Putin will once again take away the message that the benefits of aggression outweigh the costs.

Starmer added the UK should move to block Russia from financial systems, including the SWIFT system for payments, while he called for the broadcast license of Russia Today, currently allowed to operate in the UK, to be revoked.

"Putin's campaign of misinformation should be tackled. Russia Today should be prevented from broadcasting its propoganda around the world, and we should work with our allies to ensure the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is cancelled," he added.

Aside from the sanctions, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace suggested the UK was prepared to use its "offensive cyber capability" against Russia if it continues its invasion, adding in an update to MPs: "I'm a soldier – I was always taught the best part of defence is offence."

"Many of these aggressive moves – like a no-fly zone, a blockade to free trade – would absolutely warrant a response ranging from sanctions and others," he said.

"Russia should be under no illusion that threatening the integrity of a sovereign nation, whether that is in the air or on the sea, is exactly the same as threatening it on the land."

Johnson had agreed the sanctions with his cabinet at a meeting of the emergency COBRA committee earlier today following Russia's movement of troops on Monday evening.

Speaking after the meeting, Johnson said he now believed Putin was "bent on a full scale invasion of Ukraine".

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said Europe was "waking up to a very dark day" with ministers concluding the "invasion of Ukraine has begun."

The UK's sanction package comes after Germany halted approval of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in response to Russia's actions in Ukraine, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz saying Putin's decision to formally recognise Donetsk and Luhansk had "fundamentally changed" the situation.

The significant step will mean the certification process for the 745-mile pipleine, which has not yet begun operating, will be halted indefinitely.

"Without this certification Nord Stream 2 cannot go into operation," Scholz said.

"This is now about taking concrete steps relating to the situation that we have seen now."

US President Joe Biden is also expected to announce a wider sanctions region after initially setting out a package targetting the two breakaway regions.

The President's press secretary said the limited first steps were "separate from and would be in addition to the swift and severe economic measures we have been preparing in coordination with Allies and partners should Russia further invade Ukraine."

Responding to the sanction threat, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said: "Our European, American, British colleagues will not stop and will not calm down until they have exhausted all their possibilities for the so-called 'punishment of Russia'," he said.

"They are already threatening us with all manner of sanctions or, as they say now, 'the mother of all sanctions'.

"Well, we're used to it. We know that sanctions will be imposed anyway, in any case. With or without reason."

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