By William James
LONDON -Britain imposed sanctions on 386 members of Russia’s lower house of parliament on Friday, to increase diplomatic pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine.
Friday’s announcement – the latest in a series of punitive measures taken by Britain and international allies – said the sanctions targeted those who had voted to recognise the independence of Ukraine’s largely Russian-speaking breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in the run-up to the invasion.
The government had said on Feb. 22 that it would sanction the members of the Duma, and confirmed the process on Friday.
“We’re targeting those complicit in Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and those who support this barbaric war,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement.
“We will not let up the pressure and will continue to tighten the screw on the Russian economy through sanctions.”
The listed Duma members will be banned from travelling to Britain, accessing assets held in Britain or doing business there, the Foreign Office said. The European Union has already sanctioned the same group of lawmakers.
Russia has been pounding Ukraine’s cities while its main attack force north of Kyiv has made only halting progress since the invasion’s early days.
Russia denies that it has attacked Ukraine, but says it is conducting a “special operation” to disarm and “de-Nazify” Ukraine, which it says is going to plan.
On Thursday, Britain imposed sanctions on seven more Russian businesspeople including Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich in an attempt to root out Russian assets parked in Britain and increase pressure on Putin and his allies.
Britain has rejected criticism from opposition lawmakers and campaigners that it has been slower than international allies to impose sanctions, and thus given wealthy Russians time to transfer their assets elsewhere.
But ministers have acknowledged that the existing sanctions regime was too cumbersome, and the government is passing emergency legislation to streamline that process.