Russia says it will retaliate if sanctions imposed by UK over Ukraine crisis

Russia will retaliate if new sanctions are imposed by Britain, according to the country’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov.

UK ministers last week gained powers to impose tough new sanctions on Russian oligarchs and businesses.

But Mr Lavrov, who last week held a stormy meeting with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, has vowed Moscow will respond to any action taken by London.

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What impact could Ukraine crisis have on UK?

New Russia sanctions ‘ready to go’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the “very, very tough” package of sanctions is “ready to go” should Russia launch a “reckless” invasion of Ukraine.


“What we’re doing is targeting particular Russian banks, Russian companies, and making sure that we take steps, take even more steps, to unseal the facade of Russian property holdings… whether in London or elsewhere,” Mr Johnson said on Tuesday.

“Unpeel the facade of Russian ownership of companies. And also take steps to take Russian companies from raising capital on London financial markets.”

The Foreign Office said legislation laid in parliament last week would allow the UK to sanction those linked directly to Russia’s agitation over Ukraine, as well as Kremlin-linked organisations and businesses of “economic and strategic significance” to the Russian government.

This includes their owners, directors and trustees.

The US and EU have also threatened increased sanctions against Russia should it invade Ukraine.

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Why NATO remains so concerned about Russia

Caution urged over Russian claims of withdrawal

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace on Wednesday urged caution over Russian claims it was withdrawing some of its estimated 150,000 troops from near Ukraine’s borders.

The Russian defence ministry released a video showing a trainload of armoured vehicles moving across a bridge away from Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

It said the movement was part of a return of forces to their permanent bases, which Moscow has claimed started on Tuesday.

However, there has been scepticism over Russia’s claims of withdrawal from among NATO allies.

Mr Wallace told Sky News: “What we haven’t seen is evidence of withdrawal that has been claimed by the Kremlin.

“Until we see a proper de-escalation we should all be cautious about the direction of travel from the Kremlin.”

‘We have not seen any de-escalation on the ground’ – NATO chief

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg also said on Wednesday that he hadn’t seen evidence of Russian military de-escalation.

“We have heard the signs from Moscow about readiness to continue diplomatic efforts,” he said.

“But so far we have not seen any de-escalation on the ground. On the contrary it appears that Russia continues their military build-up.”

Mr Stoltenberg added NATO would “continue to convey a very clear message to Russia that we are ready to sit down and discuss with them”.

But he stressed the alliance was “prepared for the worst” and warned Russia it would “pay a high price” if it invaded Ukraine.

The UK government has highlighted the establishment of Russian field hospitals and blood banks, as well as the movement of strategic weapons systems, as contradictory evidence to Moscow’s claims of military withdrawal.

The PM has accused Moscow of sending “mixed signals” over its build-up of troops near Ukraine.

Mr Johnson, who has spoken to a raft of world leaders about the Ukraine crisis in recent days, held a call with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Wednesday afternoon.

“Both agreed that the international community needed to stand united against an invasion of an independent country, and said they would not tolerate Russia’s aggression,” a Downing Street spokeswoman said.

“An invasion would shake the foundations of international order, and have severe consequences, they agreed.”

Image: Ukrainian troops carry weapons during military drills in the country’s Donetsk region

Putin keeping ‘all the options open’

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin was currently keeping “all the options open”.

“We are observing de-escalation, some de-escalation [but] still not enough to see actually they [Russia] are moving them [troops] back,” he told Sky News.

“They have started moving around but at the same time they are bringing some other new fresh troops towards our border.

“So the message is still mixed and I believe that the decision hasn’t been made by him [Mr Putin] yet and he has all the options open.”