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Keir Starmer Calls For PM To Sanction Chelsea FC Owner Roman Abramovich

Roman Abramovich (Alamy)

4 min read

Keir Starmer has accused Boris Johnson of acting too slowly on sanctioning Russian oligarchs, highlighting that Roman Abramovich is yet to be sanctioned by the UK. 

Speaking at PMQs, the Labour leader asked “why on earth” the owner of Chelsea football club had not been included on those targeted by such measures because of his “links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activity and practices”.

He also questioned why the former Russian deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov, who owns several properties near Parliament, had been included on the EU’s list of sanctioned individuals but not the UK’s.

Starmer said Shuvalov was among the “cronies” of the regime who “dip their hands in the blood of Putin’s war”.

Johnson responded that he could not comment on individual cases, but promised that a full list of those associated with Russian president Vladimir Putin would be published shortly.

“I have no doubt that the actions that we've already… are having an effect in Moscow and, by exposing the ownership of properties of companies in the way that we are, by sanctioning 275 individuals already… that the impact is being felt.”

He also echoed comments from US President Joe Biden, adding: “The vise is tightening on the Putin regime and it will continue to tighten."

But Starmer urged the Prime Minister to act faster on Russian oligarchs in the UK, and criticized the slow passage of the Economic Crime Bill to tackle them.

“[The Russian people] are the victims of thieves who've stolen their wealth and stolen their chance of democracy for too long. Britain has been a safe haven for stolen money. 

“Putin thinks that we're too corrupted to do the right thing and put an end to it.”

He urged the Prime Minister “to sanction every oligarch and crack open every shell company so we can prove Putin wrong”.

It comes after defence secretary Ben Wallace warned Putin’s “brutality” in Ukraine is set to “only get worse” as the conflict enters its seventh day.

He told Sky News that Russia had suffered "significant casualties” which were “far more than they had planned" and that Putin was not likely to “switch tactics”.

But he said the Russian president knows "no limit" and will use indiscriminate carpet bombing against Ukrainian cities as his forces close in on the capital Kyiv.

“What you are seeing now are those heavy bombardments at night. They won't come into the cities as much,” Wallace told Sky News this morning.

"They will, I'm afraid as we've seen tragically, carpet bomb cities indiscriminately in some cases.”

The senior Cabinet minister said Russian forces “will slowly but surely try and surround the cities”, and warned the “Russian doctrine is to get harder and tougher and more indiscriminate”.

Putin’s troops have entered Ukraine's second city Kharkiv following days of intensive bombardment, while the Ministry of Defence said latest intelligence suggested they had moved into the centre of Kherson in the south of the country.

Artillery and air strikes have targeted built-up areas, but Wallace told the BBC Russian forces “are considerably behind their schedule”, and they have been “surprised by the strength of the Ukrainian resistance”.

The defence secretary also repeated the government’s rejection to calls for the UK and its allies to enforce a no-fly zone in the skies above Ukraine, something its president Vlodomir Zelenskyy has been asking them to.

He said as well as potentially sparking a Nato conflict with Russia, it would also have to apply to Ukrainian jets as well.

"If you had a no-fly zone in Ukraine, the overwhelming scale of the Russian army would be able to drive around with impunity, which it can't at the moment,” Wallace explained.

Overnight, US President Joe Biden used his State of the Union address to announce the closure of American airspace to Russian flights.

Speaking in Washington he said he had a message for the “Russian oligarchs and the corrupt leaders who built billions of dollars off this violent regime”, which is that “we’re coming for your ill-begotten gains”.

The UK’s Foreign Office announced further sanctions were in force against Russia's central bank and its sovereign wealth fund and its director, but there is criticism they have not targeted more individuals so far.

But Sberbank, Russia's largest bank, has also been prohibited from clearing sterling payments through the UK's financial system.

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