British PM Walks Out Amid Lawmakers’ Probe On Roman Abramovich’s ‘Sanction’

Boris Johnson awkwardly walked out of the House of Commons today as he was being asked to correct the record over claims about Roman Abramovich.

The prime minister had told MPs the Chelsea owner was ‘already facing sanctions’ as he discussed the financial penalties being imposed on Russia following their invasion of Ukraine.

Labour former minister Chris Bryant later raised a point of order to ask about the accuracy of Mr Johnson’s remarks.

Mr Bryant, speaking after the Prime Minister’s statement to announce new sanctions following Russia’s actions against Ukraine, said: ‘I hope the Prime Minister could just stay for a brief moment. It relates to what he said about Roman Abramovich.’

As Mr Johnson left the chamber, Mr Bryant said: ‘I don’t think that is a courtesy to the House when the Prime Minister leaves in that way.’

He added: ‘The Prime Minister said that Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned. As I understand it that has not happened.

‘I am sure the Prime Minister was completely inadvertent in giving a false indication. But it would be helpful if the Prime Minister could correct the record… these are important moments of fact.’

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle replied: ‘I am not responsible for the answers that ministers give.

‘But the Government frontbenches heard his point and if a correction is necessary, I am sure it will be forthcoming ASAP.’

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman later said Mr Johnson ‘misspoke’ while an official indicted that No 10 is expected to correct the record, with the action being referred to said to have been the visa decision in the past.

Mr Abramovich had issues around his entrepreneurial visa in 2018.

In October 2021, the businessman’s spokesperson confirmed he travelled to London as an Israeli citizen – therefore entering the United Kingdom without the need for a visa.

Labour’s Margaret Hodge had complained today of ‘serious flaws’ in the sanctions regime that meant individuals such as Abramovich and former Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov could not be covered.

Johnson was urged to use more ‘clout’ after announcing sanctions on five Russian banks and three ‘cronies’ of Vladimir Putin in the ‘first barrage’ of the Western response.

The PM lashed out at Mr Putin’s aggression and dismissed his rambling justifications as ‘absurd and even mystical’ as he unveiled the measures in a statement to the House of Commons.

Warning that Nato and its allies are ready to turn Russia into a ‘pariah’, he insisted there will be moves to prevent Russian businesses trading in dollars and pounds.

‘Today, the UK is sanctioning the following five Russian banks: Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank, and the Black Sea Bank,’ the premier told the House.

‘And we are sanctioning three very high net worth individuals: Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg, and Igor Rotenberg.’

Suggesting that members of the Russian Duma could be among those to face action next, he added: ‘Any assets they hold in the UK will be frozen, the individuals concerned will be banned from travelling here and we will prohibit all UK individuals and entities from having any dealings with them.’

Mr Johnson ‘saluted’ German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for his ‘brave’ decision to pull the plug on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia, and held out the prospect of sending more weapons to Kiev.

He also made clear he backs stopping the Champions League football final happening in St Petersburg this year.

But anti-Kremlin campaigner Bill Browder immediately voiced disappointment at the ‘pretty tepid’ response, pointing out the named oligarchs have been on the US sanctions list for several years.

Keir Starmer urged the PM to go further, saying Russian businesses should be barred from using the Swift international finance messaging system and Moscow’s RT channel should be prevented from broadcasting.

Tories lined up to appeal for Mr Johnson to get ‘dirty’ money out of the UK ‘rouble by rouble’, saying the West needs to ‘hit hard’ straight away. Foreign Affairs committee chair said the approach should be ‘clout, don’t dribble’.

Mr Johnson told MPs: ‘Now the UK and our allies will begin to impose the sanctions on Russia that we have already prepared using the new and unprecedented powers granted by this House to sanction Russian individuals and entities of strategic importance to the Kremlin.’

He added: ‘This the first tranche, the first barrage of what we are prepared to do and we hold further sanctions at readiness to be deployed.’

Boris Rotenberg is a former judo training partner of Mr Putin, who handed him rich control over gas and electricity concession in post-Communist Russia.

His nephew Igor became a billionaire after being handed a raft of investments by his father Arkady – who is currently fighting his ex-wife over ownership of a £27 million mansion in Surrey. Timchenko, meanwhile, is the sixth richest man in Russia and an ice hockey fanatic.

As the three oligarchs have been on a US sanctions list since 2018, it is unlikely many UK businesses have dealings with them to avoid facing problems with any US interests.

The five banks named by Mr Johnson only have a small footprint in the UK – although the largest one, Promsvyazbank, did have ambitions to float on the London Stock Exchange a decade ago.

Outside Parliament, Ms Truss tried to offer more reassurance that the sanctions package is merely the first step – heralding curbs on use of financial markets and Russian exports.

‘We are prepared to go much further if Russia does not pull back from the brink,’ she said. ‘We will curtail the ability of the Russian state and Russian companies to raise funds in our markets, prohibit a range of high tech exports, and further isolate Russian banks from the global economy.

‘These will be surgically targeted sanctions that will hit Russia hard.’

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