Anti-corruption campaigner calls on UK to target oligarchs close to Putin

Bill Browder says hitting Russian president’s finances is most effective way to halt invasion of Ukraine

The anti-corruption campaigner Bill Browder has called on Britain to target Russian oligarchs close to president Vladimir Putin with economic sanctions to halt any invasion of Ukraine when new legislation is unveiled on Monday.

The US-born financier believes the most effective means of getting the Russian president’s attention is to target his finances and the finances of those closest to him, and that there should be no need for the UK to wait and see if a war ensues.

“They should sanction five oligarchs tomorrow. That would show there is political will to do this. Then should sanction another five if they don’t pull back in the 10 days and the top 50 if they invade,” Browder told the Guardian.

The UK foreign secretary, Liz Truss, is expected to unveil legislation on Monday to allow Britain to hit banks, energy companies and “oligarchs close to the Kremlin” with economic sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine.

“There will be severe costs on an invasion into Ukraine. And we would target Russian financial institutions, we would target energy companies, we will target oligarchs close to the Kremlin,” Truss told the BBC on Sunday.

Browder, who has campaigned for countries around the world to introduce Magnitsky legislation, allowing them to sanction individuals linked to human rights abuses or corruption, said there was “no need to wait” for an invasion.

“From my experience, the only thing that Putin cares about is his money, which is held for him by oligarch trustees,” said Browder, who believes key Russian billionaires hold some of their wealth in trust for the Russian president.

Putin, however, denies he is wealthy and official Kremlin disclosures show he has an income of about $140,000, plus three cars and a small apartment. Claims last year by the now-jailed campaigner Alexei Navalny that he owned a vast 17,691 sq metre palace on the Black Sea coast have also been officially rejected.

The US president, Joe Biden, said last week he would consider personal sanctions against Putin if he orders an invasion of Ukraine – although it is not clear if the planned UK legislation will allow the president to be targeted.

Foreign Office sources said Britain’s existing sanctions regime allowed the UK only to target those linked to the destabilisation of Ukraine; the new legislation will permit a wider targeting of the “strategic interests” of the Russian state.

But Browder warned the UK would face “intense lobbying” by Russian oligarchs to ensure they are not personally sanctioned. “They will hire lobbyists and PR firms – and it will take strength and fortitude for the British government to deal with that,” he said.

Bob Seely, a Conservative member of the foreign affairs select committee, said he welcomed Truss’s proposed legislation, but said it was “a decade too late”. He added: “We have needed a consistent and robust approach to Russia, across the tools of Russian state power, to act as a deterrence. We have not had it.”

The Tories have been accused of allowing Kremlin-linked money to flow easily through the City of London, and several individuals with strong links to Russia have donated to the party.

Last week, the Center for American Progress, a US thinktank close to President Biden, warned that “uprooting Kremlin-linked oligarchs will be a challenge given the close ties between Russian money and the United Kingdom’s ruling Conservative party, the press, and its real estate and financial industry”.

The thinktank proposed creating a joint US-UK working group to “prod stronger action from the UK government”.

When asked about the thinktank report, Truss told the BBC: “We are doing more. We are introducing new legislation.”


  1. “But Browder warned the UK would face “intense lobbying” by Russian oligarchs to ensure they are not personally sanctioned. “They will hire lobbyists and PR firms – and it will take strength and fortitude for the British government to deal with that,” he said.”

    Yeah, strength and fortitude is somewhat lacking in the West. It makes you wonder who is more corrupt, Russia or the West.

  2. Good to see Bill back in the saddle.
    Corrupt Russian money is held in London for sure and it needs to be seized. ALL of it. That is to say all that is owned by putinoid scum oligarchs. Russians with a proven anti-putler track record should of course be exempt.
    But it’s not just London. Monte Carlo is awash with putinazi money. Abrahamovich’s yacht can be seen there frequently. Ditto Cannes, Marbella etc. If you see a rich Ivan in Marbs with his whore, you can guarantee he’s a putlerite.
    I think it was Brian Whitmore who first publicised the “custodians of Russian money” concept.
    Then you have Miami, Palm Beach etc; full of putinazi criminals. Many of whom are members at Mar-A-Lago, where they rub shoulders with Michael Savage, Paul Manafort and other Trump pals.

What is your opinion?