Ukraine conflict: UK leading on Russia sanctions, says Boris Johnsonon February 23, 2022 at 1:58 pm

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The PM promises more military support for Ukraine, but Labour urges tougher action against Vladimir Putin.

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Boris Johnson has defended his sanctions against Russia, saying the UK is “out in front” when it comes to global actions against Vladimir Putin.

He promised a “further package of military support” for Ukraine, with the assets of five Russian banks and three Russian billionaires already frozen.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged the PM to bring in laws to stop oligarchs buying UK firms and property.

But Mr Johnson said no government could “conceivably be doing more”.

Russian President Mr Putin ordered troops into the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine on Monday, after recognising them as independent,

But Western countries reject this as an excuse to invade.

Earlier, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Mr Putin had gone “full tonto” in escalating the Ukraine crisis, adding that had “no friends, no alliances” internationally.

Amid a largely sombre atmosphere at Prime Minister’s Questions, Sir Keir said: “We all want to deter aggression in Europe.

“We are not dealing with breakaway republics. Putin is not a peacekeeper. A sovereign nation has been invaded.

“The prime minister promised that in the event of an invasion he would unleash a full package of sanctions. If not now, then when?”

Mr Johnson replied: “I don’t think people quite realise the UK is out in front. We have sanctioned 275 individuals already.”

He added: “There is more to come and we will be stopping Russia from raising sovereign debt, stopping companies from raising money and stopping Russian companies … even clearing in sterling and dollars on international markets.”

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Mr Johnson also confirmed that the media watchdog Ofcom was reviewing Russia Today’s licence to broadcast in the UK.

And he said an Economic Crime Bill will be brought forward in the next parliamentary session to “peel back the facade” of beneficial ownership by Russians and others of UK property and companies.

But Sir Keir said this should be brought forward to the current session, adding that Labour would support such a move.

Meanwhile, the EU has revealed plans to target members of the Russian parliament, as well as banks financing Russia’s military.

In addition, Germany has said it will freeze approval of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Russia.

Downing Street is holding a summit with finance chiefs and regulators to discuss how to make sanctions effective.

Sources have told the BBC that Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has written up a “long list” of Russian individuals and organisations, including more oligarchs and banks close to the Kremlin, to be sanctioned if the situation in Ukraine gets worse.

The Foreign Office is also likely to target Russian companies in the defence, energy, technology and chemical sectors.

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