Billionaire ex-Arsenal shareholder and former Russian deputy PM hit with sanctions by UK

A former major shareholder in Arsenal FC and Russia’s ex-deputy prime minister have become the latest oligarchs to be sanctioned by the UK, the Foreign Office said.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Alisher Usmanov, who owned more than 30% of Arsenal before selling up to current owner Stan Kroenke in 2018, has been sanctioned.

He then developed commercial links with fellow Premier League club Everton through his firm USM, but these were suspended on Wednesday.

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Image: Mr Usmanov with Vladimir Putin in 2018

Former Russian deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov has also been sanctioned.


He is currently chairman of Russian state-owned development bank VEB.RF, which was one of three Russian banks sanctioned by the UK earlier this week.

The US also announced sanctions on the two oligarchs on Thursday.

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The pair are worth a combined $19bn (£14bn), the Foreign Office said.

Both of their assets are frozen, they are banned from travelling, and no British citizen or business can deal with them under the sanctions’ terms.

They have become the 12th and 13th Russian to be sanctioned by the UK over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine since last week. Eleven of them are oligarchs and the other two are Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

More: Who are the oligarchs with Kremlin ties targeted in UK’s sanctions against Russia?

Image: Mr Putin and Igor Shuvalov in 2017

In other developments:

Putin claims Russian invasion ‘going to plan’Macron says Putin wants to seize all of Ukraine and ‘worse is to come’Paralympic bosses make U-turn and ban Russian and Belarusian athletesUkraine minister claims Russia could be about to attack itself in ‘false flag’ operation

UK backs up words with action as oligarchs rush for the exit Paul Kelso

Business correspondent


The sanctions handed out to Alisher Usmanov and Igor Shuvalov go some way to addressing the accusation that, when it comes to Putin’s oligarchs, Britain’s rhetoric has been more impressive than its action.

Both are significant figures in the constellation of the super-rich that orbit the Russian president, Shuvalov a deputy prime minister and Usmanov a minerals billionaire who has circled English football.

Usmanov built a significant stake in Arsenal in a failed attempt to take control, before aligning with Everton, which this week suspended sponsorships with his companies.

And both men have the obligatory London property interests: Usmanov the vast Beechwood House in Highgate and Shuvalov apartments close to Westminster.

Both men were mentioned in parliament this week as evidence of the government’s failure to act, a criticism known to have frustrated Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. She says others will follow as the government builds an “evidence base”.

Meanwhile, it remains the case that the most powerful signal that the climate has changed came without any formal sanctions being applied.

Roman Abramovich’s decision to sell Chelsea, the number one lot in an apparent fire sale of assets, is a pivotal moment for the club and the Premier League. He denies political influence, but it still sends an equally profound message to his peers.

If the owner of the ultimate trophy asset is scrambling to sell, then you can bet lower-profile billionaires are doing likewise.

It is far from certain that their relative discomfort will have any impact on Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine. But the London professionals, estate agents and auctioneers who profited as the oligarchs bought their way may get another payday as they rush for the exit.

Boris Johnson said as long as Vladimir Putin continues his “barbaric attack on innocent Ukrainians”, the UK will continue to “exert every power we have to inflict maximum economic pain on Putin and his war machine”.

Ms Truss added: “Our message to Putin and his allies has been clear from day one – invading Ukraine would have serious and crippling economic consequences.

“Sanctioning Usmanov and Shuvalov sends a clear message that we will hit oligarchs and individuals closely associated with the Putin regime and his barbarous war.

“We won’t stop here. Our aim is to cripple the Russian economy and starve Putin’s war machine.”

The latest sanctions have been imposed in coordination with the US and other allies and amount to the largest set of financial sanctions in history.

More: Putin says Russia’s advance ‘going to plan’ as he praises ‘hero’ soldiers

Image: Dilbar, owned by Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, seen in Monaco in 2017

Who is Alisher Usmanov?

Mr Usmanov is originally from Uzbekistan, where he was in prison for six years on fraud charges before marrying Irina Viner, a rhythmic gymnastics coach who was close to Mr Putin.

He is the founder of telecoms and extractive business USM Holdings, which was sponsoring Everton’s training ground and had bought the naming rights for their new stadium.

Mr Usmanov, whose net worth is about $18.4bn (£13.8bn), owns a £10m mansion in Surrey, a £48m house in Highgate, London, a villa in Sardinia, and Dilbar – the world’s largest superyacht by gross tonnage.

Dilbar was seized by Germany earlier on Thursday in Hamburg.

The White House said it has blocked Mr Usmanov from using his property in the US, and any American is also banned from using it – including his superyacht and his private jet, one of Russia’s largest privately-owned aircraft.

Image: Dilbar was seized by Germany on Thursday and placed on a dock in Hamburg

Who is Igor Shuvalov?

Mr Shuvalov owns two London flats, said to be worth £11.4m and his lavish lifestyle is well-documented, with his wife and her corgis being flown to shows across Europe in his private jet.

As well as being deputy Russian PM, he has twice worked as an aide to Mr Putin.

The US has sanctioned Mr Shuvalov’s five companies, his wife Olga, his son Evgeny and his company and jet, and his daughter Maria and her company.

Also sanctioned today by the US are: Nikolai Tokarev, president of Russian pipeline company Transneft, Boris and Arkady Rotenberg, the sibling co-owners of SGM, Russia’s largest pipeline construction company, former KGB agent Sergei Chemezov, CEO of state development company Rostec, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, head of a catering and restaurant business supplying the Russian military, and Dmitry Peskov, Mr Putin’s press secretary.