Ukraine crisis: Financial sanctions announced by Boris Johnson on Russia labelled too weak as Vladimir Putin wins armed forces authority
Financial sanctions imposed by the UK on Russia in response to the Ukraine invasion have been condemned as weak as Downing Street rejected suggestions the steps would have little effect.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon led a chorus of voices from across the political spectrum warning the sanctions did not go “far enough” after Boris Johnson announced five Russian banks and three oligarchs would have their assets frozen.
It came as Russia’s upper house of Parliament voted in favour of giving Mr Putin formal authority to use Russia’s armed forces abroad, potentially paving the way for an attack.
At a press conference in Moscow, Mr Putin called for the government in Kyiv to give up its hopes of joining Nato and to accept the complete “demilitarisation” of their country. “This would mean that the Western leaders would not lose face,” he said.
Making a statement in the Commons on Tuesday, Mr Johnson revealed the UK was sanctioning the following the Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank..
The Prime Minister also said immediate sanctions were being deployed against three “very high net wealth individuals”, Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg, who he described as “cronies” of the Russian president.
Any assets they hold in the UK will be frozen, the individuals concerned will be banned from travelling here, and all UK individuals and entities will be banned from dealing with them.
Officials said a “much longer list” of oligarchs was being considered for further sanctions after Conservative MPs joined Labour in calling for Mr Johnson to impose stronger measures immediately.
The Foreign Office later announced the UK would also sanction Russian parliamentarians who voted to recognise the two-rebel held areas as independent last week.
It comes as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz took the significant step of blocking the certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would have supplied gas directly from Russia to Germany.
Speaking in Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said: “The actions of Putin are utterly indefensible and he must face the most severe sanctions as a consequence of those actions.
“The announcement by the Prime Minister just a short time ago do not, in my view, go nearly far enough.
“He described the limited sanctions announced today as a first tranche, but I think it is essential that we see further tranches very soon with further sanctions imposed upon Putin and interests in Russia.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said “a threshold has already been breached” as he called for firmer action now.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith suggested Russia should be hit “hard and hit them now” to increase the pain of the current incursion.
And Commons Defence Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood said “sanctions alone will not be enough” as he warned “untargeted sanctions may play into Putin’s plan to pivot Russia ever-closer to China”.
Senior Labour MP Margaret Hodge said there were "serious flaws" in the new sanctions regime, while Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey urged the Prime Minister to go further.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace said the existing measures were “harsh”, but insisted “there are still more sanctions in the tank”.
With Russia also amassing nearly 200,000 troops on Ukraine’s border, Mr Johnson said: “By denying Ukraine’s legitimacy as a state – and presenting its very existence as a mortal threat to Russia – Putin is establishing the pretext for a full-scale offensive.
“Honourable members will struggle to contemplate how, in the year 2022, a national leader might calmly and deliberately plot the destruction of a peaceful neighbour, yet the evidence of his own words suggests that is exactly what Putin is doing.
“When I said on Saturday that his scheme to subvert and invade Ukraine was already in motion before our eyes, the events of the last 24 hours have, alas, shown this to be true.
“We must now brace ourselves for the next possible stages of Putin’s plan – the violent subversion of areas of eastern Ukraine by Russian operatives and their hirelings, followed by a general offensive by the nearly 200,000 Russian troops gathered on the frontiers, at peak readiness to attack.
“If the worst happens, then a European nation of 44 million men, women and children would become the target of a full scale war of aggression, waged without a shred of justification, for the absurd – even mystical – reasons that Putin described.”
Mr Johnson said the sanctions were just a “first tranche”, with further measures at the ready.
He also told MPs the UK would work with its allies and not “allow Putin to drag our continent back into a Hobbesian state of nature, where aggression pays and might is right”.
Mr Johnson added: “And it is precisely because the stakes are so high that Putin’s venture in Ukraine must ultimately fail – and be seen to fail.
"That will require the perseverance, unity and resolve of the entire Western alliance, and Britain will do everything possible to ensure this is maintained.”
Sir Keir labelled the invasion a “dark day for Europe”.
He said: “We must all stand firm in our support for Ukraine. We support the freedom of her people and their right to determine their own future without the gun of an imperialist held to their head.
“There can be no excuses for Russia’s actions. There is no justification for this aggression.”
The Labour leader said Mr Putin feared democracy and knew that, given a choice, people would not choose to live under the rule of an “erratic and violent authoritarian”.
Ian Blackford gave his backing to the sanctions imposed on Russia and said his party stood united with the UK Government. The SNP Westminster leader said: “President Putin has effectively ended the Minsk agreements, and Ukraine faces another assault on its sovereignty and territorial integrity with more Russian forces on Ukrainian soil, marking yet another breach of international law in this long-running conflict.
“No-one should even repeat the Russian lie that this is peace-keeping – this is warmongering plain and simple."
“I welcome the sanctions that are now being brought forward by the UK Government, but it is deeply regrettable that the delay has allowed many Russian individuals to shift dirty assets and money in the last number of weeks.
"The UK government must go further, including suspending Russia from the SWIFT payments system.
"Alongside further robust and effective sanctions we also need to see enhanced financial and defensive support for Ukraine itself – and the UK Government must be at the forefront of these efforts.”
Former prime minister Theresa May warned the world was in the “gravest of times” and “can never take our eyes off Russia”.
Mr Johnson welcomed the move by Germany to declare it would freeze approval of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Russia.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, speaking during a press conference with Irish Premier Micheal Martin, said he had asked the German officials to halt the review process for the major gas pipeline project.
He said: “The situation we find ourselves in today is a completely different one.
“That sounds technical, but it is the necessary administrative step, so there can be no certification of the pipeline and without this certification, Nord Stream 2 cannot begin operating.”
Mr Scholz said the EU had been for several weeks preparing its response in the event of Russia escalation.
Earlier at an emergency session of the UN Security Council, the UK’s ambassador Dame Barbara Woodward claimed an invasion would unleash “the forces of war, death and destruction” on the people of Ukraine.
Dame Barbara said: “The humanitarian impact will be terrible on civilians fleeing the fighting. We know that women and children will suffer most.
“Russia has brought us to the brink. We urge Russia to step back.”
A day of escalations came after Mr Putin recognised the two eastern regions in Donbas as independent states.
The Kremlin insisted Russian forces would “maintain peace” in eastern Ukraine.
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