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British restrictions: severe – or lack of teeth?

As of: 02/23/2022 4:34 p.m.

Boris Johnson presents himself as a tough obstacle against Russia, but the reaction in the country is catastrophic. Critics point to millions of donations from Russian sources and questions about the anti-money laundering law.

By Annette Dittert, ARD Studio London

Like Boris Johnson, it sounded good in Parliament today: “The United Kingdom is at the forefront of sanctions against Russia, and our sanctions will hit Putin where he is.” He described his set as “tough” before. However, in reality, the sanctions that Johnson has imposed so far are, without a tooth, as described today by Frank Vogue, co-founder of Transparency International.

So far, the assets of five small Russian banks have been frozen, four of which have already been approved by Washington. Johnson announced yesterday that the move would not affect Putin more than the sanctions against the three private Russian oligarchy – three men allowed by the United States since 2018. “The key to real sanctions is to stop Russian companies from trading in the City of London, but it will lead to massive protests from the London financial sector,” Vogl said.

“Dull”, “half cooked”

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran cited a list of 35 Russian oligarchy groups that continue to operate in the UK. But they have now been warned by Johnson’s “sluggish action” that the opposition has criticized that now is enough time to get their money elsewhere. In the end, Johnson’s half-hearted action is negative and shows that he has no real interest in taking action against oligarchy because his party is so closely aligned with them.

In fact, the Daily Telegraph has reported directly to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the massive propaganda activities of Russian oligarchs based in London. Ian Blackford, leader of the Scottish National Party in parliament, said the pipeline connection of Russian money directly to the heart of the Tory party was one reason for Johnson’s toothless barriers.

Since Johnson’s inauguration in December 2019, the Tory party has reportedly received at least two million pounds from Russian sources. The “Sunday Times” also reported on the “secret advisory council” of influential party donors, who continued to meet with Johnson. One of the members of the “advisory council” was Lyubov Chernukin, the wife of one of Putin’s former deputy finance ministers.

A question of feeling

His party did not receive any donations from Russian oligarchs, and Johnson responded today only from British citizens. He did not deny the allegations in principle because most Russian oligarchs in London have long held British citizenship, often referred to as the “Golden Visa”, a ticket to British society that the super-rich want to use.

Anyone investing at least two million pounds on the island can stay and apply for British citizenship. Since 2015, more than 200 Russian millionaires have found their place in London.

The hole was closed by the British Home Secretary last week. Billions of people who have flown into the country from Russia so far can travel to the island anonymously via letterbox companies.

The painful law has been put on hold

This is Britain’s real problem, and can only be solved by legislation that would force corporate founders to disclose their own identities and the appearance of their capital. One such bill, the so-called “economic crime bill”, has been around for years, but its implementation has been repeatedly postponed by the Tories.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said last week that the bill would come before parliament. However, Johnson did not want to hear anything more about it and instead said the draft would not be tabled in parliament until the end of this year. Opposition parties have stated they will not run in the by-elections.

Therefore, it is not clear at present whether the Johnson government has any serious intentions beyond the good headlines of “tough sanctions” to actually deal with the close ties between the Russian currency and the British economy. After a series of recent parliamentary sessions, one can seriously doubt this.