Skip to main content

Sanctions: Russian Individuals

Volume 837: debated on Thursday 25 April 2024


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what plans they have to review sanctions against Russian individuals in the light of President Putin’s re-election and the continuing war in Ukraine.

My Lords, the United Kingdom is at the forefront of international sanctions against Russia, and takes a carefully targeted and rigorous approach to weaken Mr Putin’s war machine and to demonstrate our unyielding support for Ukraine. Together with our international partners, we have unleashed the largest, most severe package of sanctions ever imposed on a major economy. We keep all our sanction designations under review, but we do not comment on future sanction plans.

Notwithstanding that, does the Minister agree that President Putin is successfully driving forward his barbaric attacks on Ukraine by managing to dodge sanctions, despite the UK Government-imposed measures he has described—including a price cap to curb his profit from Russian oil exports? There is mounting evidence that most Russian oil exports exceed that cap, and Putin seems to be getting all the income he needs to fuel his war economy. More targeted action is surely desperately needed. Will the Government now sanction the insurers—many of which are UK-based—of vessels transporting Russian oil above the cap, and also sanction owners of the ports hosting those vessels? Will the Minister try to get all our allies to do the same?

My Lords, on the noble Lord’s final point, as he will know, we are working very closely with our key allies, particularly the G7, on ensuring how we can have more effective implementation of sanctions and how we can address the issue of the circumvention of sanctions. As I am sure the noble Lord would acknowledge, we have seen successes; $400 billion-worth of money has been denied to the coffers of the Russian Government to allow them to continue their illegal war against Ukraine.

The noble Lord mentions specific issues around the oil cap. As he knows, we have banned the import of Russian oil and oil products into our markets. We have also created the oil price cap, to limit the price at which Russia can sell its oil and products globally. We are working with key countries to improve the issue of the circumvention of sanctions. Indeed, as noble Lords will know, my noble friend the Foreign Secretary was in central Asia during the week, and that was one of the key points that he raised during his conversations with Governments across central Asia.

My Lords, the annual report of the OFSI indicates a dramatic increase in the volume of frozen assets, which, as my noble friend the Minister has indicated, is reassuring across a number of fronts. The question on everyone’s lips now—to use the popular lexicon—is whether we can move from freeze to seize. What investigations are being undertaken to see if there are legally acceptable routes to get some of that money forfeited and then adduced to good causes to help Ukraine?

First, I commend my noble friend for summarising exactly the intent of the UK Government and our partners: to go from freeze to seize. All countries in the G7 have been clear on this. There is a meeting in June, which we will be part of, to look specifically at proposals on the table. The focus right now is on a windfall-plus proposal put forward by the United States, which would involve a loan to Ukraine issued by the US and other willing G7 members and repaid over several years from the future profits generated by Russian sovereign assets held in Euroclear. This is just one practical example of the kind of work that we are doing in co-ordination with our key partners.

My Lords, I strongly support the idea of sanctioning Mr Putin and his colleagues, but once again I ask the Government to provide some assurance that great care will be taken to protect the great Russian people—many of whom I know—who may have assets and yet have nothing to do with the war in Ukraine and who have never supported Mr Putin anyway, in general. They are at risk as this country and other countries extend the scope and severity of the sanctions against Mr Putin and his colleagues.

As I have said to the noble Baroness and others, and as I know all noble Lords agree, our fight is not against the Russian people. We have seen the appalling treatment of those Russians who have been brave—let us not forget the tragic case of Mr Navalny. We are currently seeing others being held, and I know noble Lords are very much seized of that. We need to ensure that we stand with the Russian people against the draconian regime which suppresses their rights as well. I add that our own sanctions regime is based on a principle which allows for legal recourse, if an individual or an organisation has been sanctioned unfairly. This again underlines the importance of the system of appealing against sanctions, if the individual or the organisation feels that it has been unfairly applied.

My Lords, further to the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Hain, Russian oil and gas exports are up 57% over the last year, primarily to African nations and India via an enormous shadow fleet that goes through the Red Sea. We have debated RAF pilots putting their lives at risk to protect that waterway, and we are also in discussions with the Indian Government about giving their energy sector preferential market access to the UK. Is the noble Lord not right that this is now the time to be putting in place secondary sanctions to those Governments who give landing permits for shadow tankers of Russian oil, circumventing UK sanctions, and to pause any particular aspects of discussions with the Indian Government until there is clarity about their purchasing of what is considered, from our perspective, illegal Russian oil?

My Lords, I am not going to go into the process of what may happen next. Our relationships with many countries across the world allow us to have quite direct conversations about the issue of sanctions circumvention. The noble Lord is aware of the initiatives we have been taking with a number of countries—Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia immediately come to mind. We have also had bilateral engagement with the likes of Turkey and Serbia. The noble Lord raises India specifically. We have a very open, candid and strong relationship with India. While we are in negotiations about the importance of the trade benefit to both countries, we recognise the important role India has to play. I assure the noble Lord that we exchange quite candid conversations on a range of issues, including the illegal war of Russia on Ukraine.

I return to the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie. When questioned from this side of the House about seizing those assets or using them to ensure that we can rebuild Ukraine, the Foreign Secretary has repeatedly said in this Chamber that “We are working towards it”, and mentioned the G7 and so on. Can the Minister tell us whether the Prime Minister raised this with the German Chancellor, to ensure that we get strong support across all the countries, so that we can act and ensure that the Russian state pays for its war of aggression?

I assure the noble Lord that we have conversations with all of our key partners, including, as I have already said, quite directly with our G7 partners, on this very issue at the highest and most senior level. We are looking at various proposals; I have alluded to one. I also assure the noble Lord that we are looking at our own domestic legislation as well, to ensure that Russia pays for the damage it has caused, both through individuals who have been associated with the Government of Russia and with the Russian Government themselves. We want to establish a route which sanctions individuals who want to do the right thing—there may be some noble intent there, and so they can donate directly to this. It is important that we act in a co-ordinated fashion. I assure the noble Lord that we are doing just that, at the highest level with G7 partners.

My Lords, can we be assured that we are pressing ahead with sanctions against the murderers of Sergei Magnitsky under existing legislation which we have now passed? Should we not also be thinking about the same approach to the murderers of Mr Navalny?

My Lords, I will not go into the area of what we may or may not do when it comes to our sanctions regime. My noble friend is quite right: I am very proud of the fact that it was this Government who introduced the Magnitsky-style sanctions, as they are often called, when it comes to the egregious abuse of human rights. It is right that we have acted in this respect. We work very closely with our key partners to ensure that those who commit these egregious abuses of human rights are held accountable.

My Lords, when considering secondary sanctions, which may well have an important effect, will the Government take great care to ensure that we do not drive those countries that we are actually trying to woo closer into the embrace of Russia and China?

I assure the noble and gallant Lord that that is exactly the priority. He will have seen the recent travels of my noble friend. We are ensuring that we build a broad and international alliance, to ensure that the systems, structures, openness and liberalism that we stand for—which allow people to prosper, as we have seen in our own country—are reflected around the world.

My Lords, last week in Strasbourg, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recommended the seizure of Russian assets to be used in support of the people of Ukraine. Two colleagues from this House, the noble Lords, Lord Blencathra and Lord Foulkes, made powerful speeches in support of that proposal. They have worked out a scheme for how this might be done. Will His Majesty’s Government look at this and see if they can support it?