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UK, US threaten sanctions on Putin's friends

February 1, 2022

The two nations have raised the prospect of even harsher economic sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine. Russian elites are now in the economic crosshairs.

A full moon shines over the Kremlin and the Moscow International Business Center
Putin's inner-circle are likely to be targeted by new sanctions if Russia invades UkraineImage: Marina Lystseva/TASS/picture alliance

New sanctions targeting Russian companies and oligarchs close to Russian President Vladimir Putin are ready to be implemented, the United States said on Monday. 

Under the plan, the US and its allies would target Russian elites if Moscow sends troops into Ukraine.

The announcement comes amid escalating tensions over Russia's troop buildup on the border with Ukraine. The US accuses Russia of preparing an invasion, which Moscow has repeatedly denied.

UK warns Russia to 'step back'

The UK meanwhile urged Putin to "step back from the brink," as it amasses troops at various points around the Ukraine border.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the government was planning new powers to target companies that are linked to the Russian state, as well as the ability to freeze the assets of certain Russian elites and deny them entry to Britain.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the British statement was "very disturbing" and that it made the UK less attractive to investors.

"It's not often you see or hear such direct threats to attack business," he said. "An attack by a given country on Russian business implies retaliatory measures, and these measures will be formulated based on our interests if necessary."

Neither the US nor the UK specified which Russian individuals are on the list of possible sanctions.

"The individuals we have identified are in or near the inner circles of the Kremlin and play a role in government decision making or are at a minimum complicit in the Kremlin's destabilizing behavior," White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters.

Diplomatic clashes at UN

Tensions over the situation on the Ukraine-Russia border came to a head at the United Nations Security Council on Monday.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the UN Security Council that Russian troop numbers in Belarus could increase six fold in the coming days. 

"We've seen evidence that Russia intends to expand that presence to more than 30,000 troops near the Belarus-Ukraine border, less than two hours north of Kyiv by early February," said Linda Thomas-Greenfield.  "If Russia further invades Ukraine, none of us will be able to say we didn't see it coming, and the consequences will be horrific."

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia rejected the claims, saying Washington was engaging "in hysterics."

The United States is "whipping up tensions and rhetoric and provoking escalation," Nebenzia said. "The discussions about a threat of war is provocative in and of itself. You are almost calling for this, you want it to happen," he charged.

China's UN ambassador said Beijng did not see Russia's troop buildup as a threat and urged all parties to not aggravate the situation.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was due to speak with Putin late on Monday or early Tuesday before traveling to Ukraine. And US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Russian was due to speak with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday.

aw/rs (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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