The UK government is in the process of fast-tracking laws to make it easier to execute sanctions against Russian oligarchs, most of whom are known to have close links with President Vladimir Putin. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday vowed to ramp up pressure on rich elites who try to launder money through the UK. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) confirmed that emergency legislation will be introduced in Parliament next week to allow the government to move “faster and harder” in sanctioning oligarchs and businesses associated with the Putin regime. “The UK has led the way with our toughest ever sanctions package against Putin’s regime and we’re bolstering this with new powers in our arsenal to go further and faster,” said Johnson. “We will ramp up pressure on criminal elites trying to launder money on UK soil and close the net on corruption,” he said.
The Economic Crime Bill, which has cross-party support, is expected to be sped through the UK Parliament on Monday and become law by mid-March. Outlining its amendments, the FCDO said the "appropriateness test" – a threshold that needed to be met when imposing sanctions on individuals – would be removed. It is also speeding up the deadline for overseas companies to declare their true owners, from 18 months to six months. Maximum fines for non-compliance with this rule are set to increase from 500 pounds to 2,500 pounds per day. "The world is turning its back on Putin and his regime," Johnson said in a video message on Twitter. His spokesperson at 10 Downing Street made clear that the UK Prime Minister did not support the remarks of US Senator Lindsey Graham, calling for “somebody in Russia” to assassinate Putin to bring an end to the conflict in Ukraine. “We’ve said before that Putin must be held to account at the International [Criminal] Court for the horrific acts that have been seen," the spokesperson said. The Metropolitan Police’s War Crimes Team said on Friday that it is gathering evidence in relation to alleged war crimes in Ukraine in support of the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation, which was confirmed by the ICC Prosecutor earlier this week. The War Crimes Team is part of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command and has responsibility for carrying out any UK enquiries into war crimes and core international crimes.
Scotland Yard detectives are appealing for anyone in the UK who may have direct evidence of war crimes in Ukraine from November 21, 2013 to the present. “Following the news that the ICC had opened an investigation into war crimes in Ukraine, our War Crimes Team is now seeking to gather any evidence that might be present here in the UK of such crimes in Ukraine,” said Commander Richard Smith, Head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, which includes the War Crimes Team. “This could be in the form of direct messages, images or videos that friends or relatives here in the UK have been sent by those in Ukraine. Or it could be somebody who was previously in Ukraine and who may have witnessed or even been a victim of a war crime and have since travelled to the UK,” he said. “To be clear though, we specifically want to hear from people who are now here in the UK, and who have a direct link to any relevant information or evidence – this is not about the general public highlighting or telling us about things they might have simply come across or seen in the media, online or on social media,” he added. Officers based at UK ports are also being briefed in relation to this matter, so that they can help to make those arriving in the UK, having recently been in Ukraine, aware that they can report and provide any evidence to the War Crimes Team and that any evidence gathered from this may then be shared with the ongoing ICC investigation. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for a new Nuremberg style tribunal – which prosecuted Nazi war crimes from the Second World War – to be established so that Putin and his associates can be tried for crimes of aggression against Ukraine.