Boris Johnson says he will publish ‘full list of all those associated with the Putin regime’ – UK politics live | Politics

We’re on day seven of the Ukraine war and generally, so far, it has been going rather well for Boris Johnson. He has been denouncing Russia in terms supported by most of the country, his updates to the Commons have been well received, the Ukrainian president clearly has warmly welcomed the military support he is getting from the UK, and on the international stage Johnson seems to have had some success in nudging allies towards tougher stances (particularly on Swift). The standing ovation given to the Ukrainian ambassador was moving (especially for people in the chamber, colleagues tell me) and Johnson may have finished the applause thinking he would be able to spend the next 30 minutes avoiding harsh attacks, and engaging in consensual Putin-bashing.

But he did not get an easy ride at all. It may not have been a disaster, but it was a deeply uncomfortable PMQs for the prime minister, that left him looking compromised and exposed.

Johnson faced repeated criticism, on two issues. First, there were complaints that the UK should be following the EU and adopting a much more generous approach to Ukrainians fleeing the war and seeking sanctuary. Labour has been pushing this argument, and at PMQs it was also made strongly by the Scottish and Welsh nationalists (who represent countries where the political consensus on immigration is quite different to England’s). Johnson is probably only PM because he adopted a political cause fuelled by public concern about migration from eastern Europe, but he must be wondering whether, on this issue, he is now on the wrong side of public opinion. The polling certainly suggests he is. (See 11.56am.)

But on Ukrainian refugees, Johnson at least at an answer. When questioned by Keir Starmer on sanctions, and in particular on the government’s failure to impose sanctions yet on named oligarchs, Johnson was floundering badly because he did not have credible answers at all.

To illustrate the point here (from PA Media) are Starmer’s first three questions. He started with this:

We must stand up to Putin and those who prop up his regime. Roman Abramovich is the owner of Chelsea Football Club and various other high-value assets in the United Kingdom. He’s a person of interest to the Home Office because of his links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activity and practices. Last week, the prime minister said that Abramovich is facing sanctions. He later corrected the record to say that he isn’t. Well, why on earth isn’t he?

Johnson said it would not be “appropriate” to comment on individuals cases at this point – before saying that later the government would publish “a full list of all those associated with the Putin regime”.

Starmer’s next question was about another oligarch.

Last week, Putin summoned to the Kremlin the cronies who prop up his regime, they dip their hands in the blood of Putin’s war. Among them was Igor Shuvalov, Putin’s former deputy prime minister. Shuvalov owns two flats, not five minutes walk from this house. They’re worth over £11m. He is on the EU sanctions list, but he’s not on the UK sanctions list. When will the prime minister sort this out?

Johnson dodged this one too, saying he was “proud of what we have done already”.

Starmer then asked about Shuvalov again.

We only know which oligarch lurks beneath [the shell company that owns Shuvalov’s flats] because of the information obtained and disclosed by Alexei Navalny. Navalny, of course, was poisoned by the Russian state and he now sits in a Putin jail. Transparency is essential to rooting out corruption. It should be built into our law but it’s not. And I’m ashamed that we only know about Shuvalov’s Westminster flats because a dissident risked his life. Is the prime minister?

In reply, Johnson claimed the UK was “doing everything that we can to expose ill-gotten Russian loot”. But this boast is untrue – as Chris Bryant illustrated when he returned to the government’s failure to sanction prominent Russians. Starmer did not directly raise the large sums given to the Conservative party by Russian linked donors over the years, but another Labour MP, Bill Esterson did – perhaps a sign that Labour MPs are coodinating their questions with the frontbench?

If so, it’s working, because collectively Starmer and his colleagues built a strong case against the government. (A Tory MP, Bob Seely – a leading Commons hawk on Russia – also chipped in, compounding the PM’s embarrassment.) Journalists have been writing about Tory links with wealthy Russians for years, but it has been hard to prove that ministers are in the pocket of pro-Kremlin oligarchs. That’s because a) it is never quite clear how close to Vladimir Putin these donors are (although they tend not be be fierce Putin critics – because those are the Russians who end up dying in the UK in mysterious circumstances); and b) it is not obvious what they are getting for their money (favours for Putin, or protection from Putin?).

But the impression remains that there is something murky going on, and Johnson’s inability today to explain why sanctions are not being pursued more vigorously won’t have helped.

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