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UK announces sanctions on 92 Russian officials, entities over referendums in Ukraine

A local resident pushes his bike as smoke rises over the site of an explosion after a rocket attack in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Kostiantyn Liberov)

The United Kingdom (U.K.) on Monday announced 92 sanctions targeting Russian officials and agencies in response to Moscow carrying out referendum votes in occupied Ukrainian territory that the U.S. and allies are preemptively rejecting.  

The U.K. sanctions mark one of the first concrete moves by a government allied with Ukraine to impose costs on the Kremlin for carrying out the referendums.

The U.S. and allies are warning the referendums — which are asking occupied citizens whether they want to officially join with Russia — are a step by Russian President Vladimir Putin to escalate further his war in Ukraine, harking back to the referendum carried out in Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 that Russia used to annex the territory. 

“Sham referendums held at the barrel of a gun cannot be free or fair and we will never recognise their results,” U.K. Foreign Minister James Cleverly said in a statement.

“They follow a clear pattern of violence, intimidation, torture, and forced deportations in the areas of Ukraine Russia has seized,” he added.

The U.K. sanctions targeted top Russian officials that it says are enforcing “the illegal votes in four regions of Ukraine”; IMA consulting, which the U.K. describes as “Putin’s favorite PR Agency”; and the security documents company known as Goznak, which the U.K. said has a “monopoly on the production of ‘tens of millions’ of state documents including expedited passports in the temporarily controlled territories.”

Individual sanctions target pro-Russian government officials in the occupied territories of Kherson, Luhansk and Donetsk and four Russian oligarchs the U.K. government says have a combined global net worth estimated at £6.3 billion ($6.7 billion). 

“Today’s sanctions will target those behind these sham votes, as well as the individuals that continue to prop up the Russian regime’s war of aggression. We stand with the Ukrainian people and our support will continue as long as it takes to restore their sovereignty,” Cleverly said. 

White House spokesperson Karine Jean Pierre on Monday said the U.S. will announce new actions in the coming days related to the Russia’s actions on the referendum.

“We are prepared to impose additional swift, and severe economic costs on Russia, along with our allies and partners in response to these actions that we’re seeing currently, if they move forward with annexation,” she said during a briefing at the White House.

“We stand with our partners around the world in rejecting whatever fabricated outcomes Russia announces. And you will hear more from us in the coming days on this.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at the United Nations Security Council last week, called on all members to reject any referendum results published by Russia from the occupied Ukrainian territories.

“As with Crimea, it’s imperative that every member of this council and, for that matter, every member of the United Nations reject the sham referenda and unequivocally declare that all Ukrainian territory is and will remain part of Ukraine, and no Russian claim to annex territory can take away Ukraine’s right to defend its own land,” he said.

Updated at 3:06 p.m.

Tags Russia Ukraine Vladimir Putin
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