Squeeze on Putin

Sturgeon seeks sanctions on Russian assets

Moscow is being economically alienated

Nicola Sturgeon is seeking ways to seize Russian assets in Scotland as her finance secretary urged companies to cease trading with Vladimir Putin’s regime.

The First Minister told MSPs at Holyrood that she was taking legal advice over Russian business interests in Scotland.

Russia has been a destination for Scottish made engineering equipment, textiles, and chemicals as well as food and drink. There have been pleas from Ms Sturgeon’s SNP colleagues for the whisky and cashmere sectors to halt trading with Russia.

Ms Sturgeon told parliament: “I have sought urgent advice on the maximum possible action that the Scottish government can take, within our powers, against individuals and entities that are identified as having close links with the Russian regime, whether or not they are currently on the United Kingdom sanctions list.

“Options that will be examined include, but are not limited to, ending support from the public purse and freezing or seizing assets in Scotland, where that is possible.”

Her comments came as the UK government sanctioned two more Russian oligarchs.

Alisher Usmanov, who is worth £13.4 billion, had been a big investor in Everton Football Club until the arrangement was suspended by the club this week. He previously held a 30% in Arsenal FC.

Igor Shuvalov, Russia’s former deputy prime minister, owns two flats in Whitehall worth £11.4 million.

They will be subject to asset freezes and unable to travel to Britain. Both men had already been sanctioned by the European Union.

The action came as Scotland’s Finance Secretary Kate Forbes published an open letter to the business community asking them to assess their activities in Russia.

She said: “Nations across the world have rightly imposed severe economic sanctions against the Putin regime and its close associates.

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“We fully support the sanctions the UK government has imposed and will do all we can to encourage and enable their strict enforcement.

“We know that everyone wants to do the right thing here. Many businesses, sporting and cultural organisations have shown commendable corporate values and leadership, in divesting their interests in Russia, their trading relationships with Russian entities and their participation in lucrative Russian contracts.

“We support these decisions and would encourage all Scottish businesses to follow their example. Beyond direct investments, reviewing operations for links and connections to Russia — however indirect — and then severing them is the right decision.

“I welcome the effort being undertaken right now by businesses across Scotland to do exactly that, and encourage them to continue to conduct this work at pace, and with due regard for the safety of any employees or individuals you may work with.”

Ross Greer, the Green MSP, suggested Vladimir Lisin, a Russian billionaire, had received £700,000 of Scottish public cash through his ownership of the Aberuchill Estate in Perthshire.

The Scotch Whisky Association estimates 42 million bottles were sold into Russia during 2021 with a value of £28 million.

In a statement it said: “Our thoughts are with all those affected and displaced by the conflict. The welfare of industry employees working in Ukraine and Russia is paramount. We continue to closely monitor the situation and pass on any relevant government guidance on exports to our members.”

Earlier this week, Abrdn, the financial services giant, ruled out any investment in Russia for the “foreseeable future” although it still holds about £2 billion of assets across its funds.

The Glasgow-based mining technology firm Weir Group and drinks giant Diageo are among a growing list of companies to suspend or withdraw business in Russia.

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