By Kylie MacLellan, William James and Elizabeth Piper
LONDON (Reuters) -Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled Britain’s largest-ever package of sanctions against Russia on Thursday, targeting banks, members of President Vladimir Putin’s closest circle and wealthy Russians who enjoy high-rolling London lifestyles.
Western nations are coordinating action to impose tough sanctions against Russia in response to its all-out invasion on neighbouring Ukraine by staging missile strikes on cities and pouring its troops into the country.
Speaking to Parliament just hours after Putin declared war with Ukraine, Johnson said the Russian leader would be condemned by the world and by history for his invasion, never able to cleanse the “blood of Ukraine from his hands”.
“This hideous and barbarous venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure,” he told parliament when announcing the new sanctions, announcing a which saw sanctions being imposed on more than 100 Russian individuals and entities.
“For our part today the UK is announcing the largest and most severe package of economic sanctions that Russia has ever seen.”
After the West was criticised for earlier, weaker sanctions this week in response to Russia recognising two breakaway republics in Ukraine, Johnson said leaders had agreed to work together to “maximise the economic price” Putin will pay.
A government official said the coordinated sanctions would knock percentage points off the Russian economy in the next 12 to 18 months.
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In the 10-point sanctions package, the British government said it would impose an asset freeze on some major Russian banks, including state-owned VTB, its second-biggest bank, and stop major Russian companies from raising finance in Britain.
“Sanctions have been a reality for us over the past few years, and another round of politically motivated anti-Russian sanctions came as no surprise,” VTB said in a statement.
“We have had time to learn the lessons and prepare for the most severe scenario, we have worked through several plans to counter the sanctions in ways which minimise the negative consequences for our clients.”
Since the fall of the Soviet Union three decades ago, London’s capital markets have been the favoured destination for Russian companies seeking to raise money outside Moscow.
Among the people targeted by the second wave of sanctions included Kirill Shamalov, Putin’s once son-in-law.
Pyotr Fradkov, chairman of Promsvyazbank, was also under sanctions. The finance ministry has accused Fradkov of working to transform the bank into one that serves the defence industry.
Britain will also ban Russia’s flagship airline Aeroflot from landing in Britain, suspend dual export licences to Russia and ban exports of some high tech exports and parts of the extractive industry.
Johnson also went further than some other Western countries, calling for Russia to be excluded from SWIFT, the inter-bank messaging network which is the backbone of international finance – a demand made by Ukraine.
At home, officials said the sanctions were aimed at preventing wealthy Russians from using London, often dubbed ‘Londongrad’ or Moscow-on-Thames, as their playground, reducing their ability to store large amounts of cash in Britain’s banks.
“These are people who have international lifestyles,” a diplomatic source said. “They come to Harrods to shop, they stay in our best hotels when they like, they send their children to our best (fee-paying) schools, and that is what’s being stopped.”
(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan, Elizabeth Piper, Andrew MacAskill and William James; writing by Elizabeth Piper and Michael Holden; editing by Guy Faulconbridge, William Schomberg, Alistair Bell and Grant McCool)