US and UK threaten Moscow elite with sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine

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  • Russia has massed troops near Ukraine’s borders
  • Johnson will tell Putin to ‘step back from the brink’
  • Moscow responds to US proposal

WASHINGTON/LONDON/MOSCOW, Jan 31 (Reuters) – The United States and Britain are ready to punish Russian elites close to President Vladimir Putin with an asset freeze and travel bans if Russia enters Ukraine, Washington and London said Monday as tensions also boiled over. at the United Nations.

Britain has urged Putin to ‘step back’ after Russian troop buildups near Ukraine stoked war fears, and warned any incursions would trigger sanctions on companies and people close to the Kremlin.

“The individuals we have identified are in or near inner Kremlin circles and play a role in government decision-making or are at least complicit in the Kremlin’s destabilizing behavior,” the spokeswoman for the Kremlin told reporters. White House, Jen Psaki.

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(Don’t miss: Ukraine’s turbulent history since independence in 1991)

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the proposed legislation would give London new powers to target companies linked to the Russian state.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Britain’s warning “very worrying”, saying it made Britain less attractive to investors and hurt British businesses.

“An attack by a given country against Russian companies implies retaliatory measures, and these measures will be formulated according to our interests if necessary,” Peskov said.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, London has become the haven of choice for a river of money from Russia and other former Soviet republics. Transparency advocates have long called on Britain to be tougher on illicit financial flows.

PUBLIC CONFRONTATION

Tensions between Russia and the United States surfaced at the United Nations Security Council on Monday, where the meeting requested by the United States on the reinforcement of troops from Moscow allowed a public confrontation over the crisis.

Russia’s UN ambassador said there was ‘no evidence’ that Moscow was planning military action and that Russia had never confirmed the West’s claim that it had amassed 100 000 soldiers near its neighbor.

Vassily Nebenzia said American discussions of the war were “provocative”, that Russia frequently deployed troops on its own territory and that the Ukrainian crisis was a national problem.

“The provocation comes from Russia, not from us or other members of this council,” said US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

China urged all parties not to escalate the situation and said it did not view Russian troops near the border as a threat.

Although Russia, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backs pro-Russian rebels fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine, denies planning another incursion, it demands sweeping security guarantees, including a promise that NATO will never admit Ukraine.

A view shows Russian BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles during exercises held by the armed forces of the Southern Military District in the Kadamovsky Range in Rostov Region, Russia January 27, 2022. REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov

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He sent a follow-up to a written proposal made by the United States last week, according to the State Department. Washington did not comment on the content of the response on Monday, saying “it would be counterproductive to negotiate in public.”

Meanwhile, the leaders are continuing their diplomatic efforts with phone calls and meetings to try to defuse the situation.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to travel to Ukraine on Tuesday to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

During a call between French President Emmanuel Macron and Putin, the two men said they wanted to maintain a dialogue on the implementation of the Minsk agreements concerning Donbass, a region in eastern Ukraine where Moscow has supported separatist fighters.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is expected to speak by phone with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday, a State Department spokesman said.

RUSSIAN MONEY ABROAD

Putin’s opponents have long urged the West to clamp down on Russian money, though Russian oligarchs and officials continue to flaunt their wealth in Europe’s most luxurious destinations.

“Putin’s cronies will no longer be able to use their spouses or other family members as proxies to evade sanctions,” a senior Biden administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Sanctions would cut them off from the international financial system and ensure that they and their family members can no longer enjoy the benefits of parking their money in the West and attending elite Western universities.”

Britain has already imposed sanctions on around 180 people and 48 entities since Russia annexed Crimea, including six people it says are close to Putin. Sanctions allow Britain to keep people out and freeze their assets.

The European Union, many of whose members are part of NATO, also threatened “strong political consequences and massive economic costs” for Russia for any further incursion into Ukraine.

Some NATO countries, including the United States and Britain, have sent weapons to Ukraine, although they have ruled out sending troops there to fight.

Poland said it had offered neighboring Ukraine tens of thousands of munitions and was awaiting a response. The White House on Monday accused Russia of deploying troops to Belarus, which hosts Russian drills and borders both Poland and Ukraine.

Europe’s dependence on Russian energy supplies is weakening the hand of the West, and the United States has asked the top gas producer, Qatar, and other major exporters to study s they could provide more to Europe.

US President Joe Biden met with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, in the Oval Office on Monday and said he planned to designate the Middle Eastern nation as a major non-EU ally. NATO.

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Reporting by Steve Holland in Washington, Guy Faulconbridge in London and Dmitry Antonov in Moscow; Additional reporting by William James in London, Michelle Nichols at the UN and Jeff Mason, Humeyra Pamuk and Rami Ayyub in Washington; Written by Kevin Liffey, Frank Jack Daniel and Costas Pitas; Editing by Toby Chopra, Rosalba O’Brien and Grant McCool

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