Liz Truss Doesn't Rule Out Sanctioning Tory Donors If Linked With Putin Regime
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said "nothing was off the table" when it came to sanctions, but rejected calls for her party to return donations from Russian donors.
Truss said the UK was prepared to "inflict pain" on Russian President Vladimir Putin with further economic sanctions if he launched a full scale invasion on Ukraine.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced criticism from MPs on Tuesday over claims that the UK government's sanctions package against five Russian banks and three oligarchs was not tough enough to deter Putin from further action.
But speaking to Sky News on Wednesday, Truss defended what she believed was a "tough" approach, and said it was important the government could "retain some sanctions in the locker" as part of a co-ordinated effort with western allies.
"We are doing all we can to deter Vladimir Putin, to inflict as much pain as we can on the Russian government to make it clear to the people of Russia that their government is violating international law and is violating sovereignty," she said.
"We need to keep those sanctions in the locker."
The cabinet minister also refused to rule out targetting Conservative donors after it was revealed around £2m had been donated in recent years from Russian-linked individuals.
"We are very clear that nothing is off the table in terms of who we are targetting in terms of the access of Russia to British financial institutions," she said.
"We are maintaining our alliance with our international allies to make sure we are targetting those key people who are backing and supporting Putin's regime."
But pressed on whether the party was considering returning cash already handed over by Russian-linked donors, she said: "All of the donations to the Conservative Party are from people on the electoral register in Britain. Those donations are properly declared."
She added: "What we are talking about here is people, the oligarchs we are targetting in today's sanctions, those are people closely linked to Vladimir Putin's regime."There are many people from Russia to Britain who are not necessarily friends of Vladimir Putin and who have become British citizens, that is a completely different matter from people who are close to Putin and who are backing his appalling regime."
She added: "All those donations have been properly declared."
But shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said the government should hand back the cash as he raised fears about the links between Russian oligarchs and the Conservative Party.
"Our concerns are, I am afraid, there has been too much connection between Russian oligarchs and donations to the Conservative Party," he said.
"We have said we think they should hand back £2m, and frankly, it is not clear entirely what is going on. This was a moment when Britian had to step up and demonstrate a certain kind of seriousness."
Lammy said there was a "long standing" concern around foreign interference in British politics as he called for tougher action to identify properties owne by overseas investors and reform election laws to limit outside donations.
"This is a line in the sand and it is a moment for the government to act," he added.
"You've got to ask, for example, why we have not got that overseas entities bill so we can see transparently who owns what in London, when we know there are over 250,000 homes owned by people overseas.
"Why did we make changes to our election bill to mean we can have unlimited donations from people overseas into political parties?
"This is unneccessary, it undermines our own democracy, but more importantly it sends a message to Vladimir Putin that we are not serious."
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