FRIENDS and allies of Vladimir Putin could be targeted in a fresh wave of sanctions against Russia following the MH17 tragedy.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the “cronies” around the Russian president could be included in measures after European leaders, including David Cameron, agreed on the need for tougher action.
Mr Hammond acknowledged the UK could be affected by any restrictions on the flow of Russian money, and insisted other European countries would also have to take some of the pain of a more punitive sanctions regime.
The Foreign Secretary and counterparts from across the European Union will meet tomorrow to discuss the measures, which would build on existing sanctions imposed as a result of Russia’s involvement in the crisis in Ukraine.
The Prime Minister reached agreement with German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president François Hollande that the EU should be ready to impose more stringent penalties on Russia.
Mr Hammond said: “We have to move in a group. These are European Union sanctions; the United States has done its own thing separately.
“But Britain’s record throughout these sanction discussions has been to consistently seek stronger language, stronger actions. We have been at the forefront of the demand for more robust sanctions.
“What we need to do now is use the sense of shock, the sense of outrage, to galvanise opinion behind a more robust stance. We have tools in our toolbox, we have levers which we can apply to Russia.
“We can inflict damage on the Russian economy.”
He added: “If they continue to allow arms to pass across the border, if they continue to provide the kind of support they have been to the rebels … there will be stiffer and longer lasting consequences for the Russian economy.”
Mr Hammond acknowledged London is a “very important financial centre and financial sanctions will have some impact on London”.
He added: “Of course we should be prepared to accept, as a part of a comprehensive package of sanctions pressure, measures that will have some impact on London as a financial centre, we have to accept that.”