But Keir Giles, Senior Consulting Fellow in the Russia and Eurasia Programme at the Chatham House think tank, said the “feeble” package of measures unveiled by the Prime Minister yesterday failed to go far enough – and said it was vital to target what he called “the problem of Russian money in London”. Speaking in the Commons on Tuesday, Mr Johnson said three individuals – Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and his nephew Igor Rotenberg – were all being sanctioned by the UK Government.
In addition, five entities including Russian banks were also named.
However, critics including David Lammy MP were underwhelmed by the announcement, with the Shadow Foreign Secretary on Wednesday saying: “It’s no use tackling Russian aggression abroad, while doing nothing to tackle Russian corruption at home.
“For a decade the Tories have failed on this – worse, they have enabled it.”
However, Mr Giles, answering a question from Express.co.uk during a webinar organised by Chatham House entitled Russia-Ukraine Crisis: Latest developments, poised out both Timchenko, Russia’s sixth-richest man, and Boris Rotenberg were in fact EU citizens, having citizenship in Finland.
Mr Giles, talking hours before Russia launched a full-scale invasion of its neighbour, added: “The side effect of Brexit has been to liberate the UK from EU’s foreign policy, which means that they can in fact sanction EU citizens, including those decision makers in Russia close to President Putin.
“If that is actually the case then that provides an excellent way of leveraging some of the advantages of Brexit to pursue this more robust policy against Russia.”
READ MORE: Boris Johnson ‘appalled’ by ‘horrific’ Russian invasion of Ukraine
“If the Government means it, it needs to overcome resistance from the enablers and from the parasite industries, and from the top levels of the Conservative Party.
“It does have an effect – we see that Russia squeals loudest when personal fortunes are threatened.”
Mr Giles also referred to suggestions that the West, including the UK, could offer aid to Ukrainian resistance movements in the event of Russian occupation.
However, he cautioned: “It sounds attractive because it looks as though it doesn’t mean directly confronting Russia but we are concerned about the implications of that, looking at Russia’s 100 per cent success record on suppressing resistance movements of that kind in territories that it has occupied through using medieval levels of savagery and inflicting terror on the civilian population.
“Yesterday, Parliament’s defence select committee said the UK and NATO should learn lessons from this crisis and act earlier to support countries facing aggressive threats from larger neighbours.”
If Mr Putin was to be believed, he was so far acting on his ideological convictions in terms of his desire to rebuild the Russian empire, Mr Giles suggested.
He said: “The next targets for Russia will be those forward NATO and EU countries
“Therefore the time to be bolstering their defences and this does mean conventional military defences as well as all of its protection against sub-threshold and hybrid threats. The time is now.
“If the UK is to take an interest in its own defence, it has to recognise that the current state and the direction of travel of the UK is land forces don’t constitute a deterrent to Russia.
“The bottom line is Russia feels able to act against Ukraine because of a failure of deterrence by the West overall.”