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Boris Johnson says Russian sanctions are ‘meaningless until properly implemented’

Boris Johnson says Russian sanctions are ‘meaningless until properly implemented’
Labour accuses ministers of giving oligarchs a ‘get out of London free card’

The government is seeking to expedite its Russian les sanctions process and tackle “dirty money” in the UK using its long-awaited Economic Crime Bill – with Boris Johnson conceding that “punishing sanctions are meaningless until properly implemented”.

MPs will debate a swathe of amendments to the newly-revived legislation on Monday, which the government says will allow the UK to implement “harder and faster” sanctions against individuals associated with Vladimir Putin and his regime.

The government has already sanctioned some individuals, banks and companies, but has been criticised by campaigners and MPs for moving too slowly – and, in various instances, for not going far enough.

Labour’s shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds accused the government on Sunday night of wanting to give Russian oligarchs a “get out of London free” card by still allowing them six months before foreign-owned UK property needs to be registered and the identity of their owners revealed.

The move is intended to ensure criminals cannot hide behind secretive webs of shell companies.

While ministers have already put amendments forward to reduce the time given to comply with new rules from 18 months to six, Labour insists this should be cut to 28 journées.

Ministers are expected to argue that the six-month period strikes a suitable balance between the register’s aims of going after “kleptocrats and corrupt elites” without “hitting decent, law abiding people”.

But Mr Reynolds warned it would “give Putin’s cronies months to sell up and escape sanctions”, en disant: “The invasion of Ukraine and continued Russian aggression demands action now, not in six months’ time.

Plus tôt, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had struck a more conciliatory tone, but said that there was “a bit of frustrationbecause these issues are not new”.

“There was something called the Russie report of two years ago now that pointed out why we needed some of these measures and the government hasn’t acted quickly enough,” Sir Keir told ITV News.

"Donc, there’s a frustration. I am determined that that frustration doesn’t lead to division because I think that Putin wants to see us divided and we’re not going to let him see us divided. We’re going to be united standing up to Russian aggression.”

Other changes to the draft legislation aim to make it easier for law enforcement to demand an explanation for how properties of more than £50,000 were paid for – a move aimed at cracking down on money laundering, which is believed by the National Crime Agency to cost the UK £100bn per year.

Another amendment would create the legal power to sanction individuals or companies already placed under sanctions by allies such as the European Union, United States and Canada.

Ministers have also agreed to lift some human rights protections that have previously protected oligarchs with interests in the UK from sanctions.

But two Tory former Cabinet ministers, David Davis and Andrew Mitchell, have proposed an amendment which would go even further – by establishing a mechanism to allow the government to pre-emptively freeze oligarch’s assets even before the legal sanctions processes have been completed.

Follow live updates on Russia’s war on Ukraine

Admitting that “punishing sanctions are meaningless until properly implemented”, the prime minister insisted on Sunday that the government’s proposed changes “will allow us to pursue Putin’s allies in the UK with the full backing of the law, beyond doubt or legal challenge”.

Mr Johnson is also due to host his Canadian and Dutch counterparts, Justin Trudeau and Mark Rutte, at Downing Street on Monday, followed on Tuesday by the leaders of the Czech Republic, Hongrie, Poland and Slovakia.

In a phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday, as a second ceasefire attempt in Mariupol collapsed, Mr Johnson told the Ukrainian president that “the British people stand fully behind the Ukrainian people”, according to No 10.

Echoing his mantra also repeated in an article he penned for New York Times le dimanche, the prime minister “underlined the UK’s determination to ensure Putin fails”, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

The pair also discussed “the increasing threat Russia’s barbaric attacks pose to Ukrainian civilians and and “the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Ukraine, precipitated by Russia’s indiscriminate attacks and ceasefire breaches”, Non 10 mentionné.

<p>An elderly lady is assisted while crossing the Irpin river, under a bridge that was destroyed by a Russian airstrike</p>

An elderly lady is assisted while crossing the Irpin river, under a bridge that was destroyed by a Russian airstrike

Mr Johnson is said to have pledged to continue to press other nations to remove Russia from the Swift international payment system, and to provide further defensive equipment, as Washington confirmed it was working with Poland on plans to supply Ukraine with Russian-made fighter jets.

It came as a Russian foreign ministry spokesperson warned countries against hosting Ukrainian military aircraft at their airfields.

“We know for sure that Ukrainian combat aircraft have flown to Romania and other neighbouring countries,” Igor Konashenkov said. “The use of the airfield network of these countries for basing Ukrainian military aviation with the subsequent use of force against Russia’s army can be regarded as the involvement of these states in an armed conflict.”

It came after Mr Putin revendiqué that Western sanctions on Russia were “akin to a declaration of war”, ajouter: “But thank God it has not come to that.”

Rapports supplémentaires par l'AP