London freezes assets of two more oligarchs amid criticism of slowness to act

Labour says delay allows Putin’s associates to ‘salvage hundreds of millions’

Britain has frozen the assets of a major investor in Everton and Arsenal football clubs and a former Russian deputy prime minister who led Moscow's bid for the 2018 World Cup. Alisher Usmanov and Igor Shuvalov will be cut off from their British interests, including homes worth tens of millions of pounds, they will be banned from visiting Britain and no UK citizen or business can deal with them.

Mr Usamov's USM Holdings sponsors Everton's training ground and has bought the naming rights for the club's new stadium in Liverpool. Mr Shuvalov, who has worked as a close aide to Vladimir Putin, owns two luxury apartments near the Palace of Westminster worth £11 million (€13.3 billion).

"Our message to Putin and his allies has been clear from day one – invading Ukraine would have serious and crippling economic consequences. Sanctioning Usmanov and Shuvalov sends a clear message that we will hit oligarchs and individuals closely associated with the Putin regime and his barbarous war. We won't stop here. Our aim is to cripple the Russian economy and starve Putin's war machine," foreign secretary Liz Truss said.

Brexit obstacles

The move against Mr Usamov and Mr Shuvalov comes a day after Roman Abramovich put Chelsea football club up for sale, promising to donate the proceeds to help the victims of the war in Ukraine. Mr Abramovich is also reported to be selling two houses in London, including a 15-bedroom mansion near Kensington Palace which is worth up to £150 million.


Boris Johnson's government has faced criticism over the slow pace of its crackdown on Russian oligarchs, compared with more decisive action by the European Union and the United States. New legislation introduced after the Brexit referendum has made it more difficult for the government to build legally watertight cases for sanctioning wealthy individuals.

Ms Truss said that threats from lawyers representing oligarchs would not deter the government from sanctioning individuals close to the Kremlin.

Haven for wealth

"We are absolutely determined to sanction Russian oligarchs. We have a further list we are working through," she said during a visit to Lithuania.

“We have put in place the toughest package of sanctions in the British history including bank freezes, freezes on central bank and export controls, and we will do more.”

London has been home to many rich Russians, offering a haven for dubiously sourced wealth but Britain has sanctioned only nine individuals since Russia invaded Ukraine, compared to the EU's 26. Labour's shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said Britain's delay was allowing Mr Putin's cronies to avoid having many of their assets frozen.

“Ministers had months to prepare for this eventuality, with the full support of parliament, and there is no excuse for their failure to introduce strong enough laws in the first place,” he said.

“The government’s failure to keep pace with the EU and the US on sanctions is allowing Putin-linked oligarchs to salvage hundreds of millions in assets.”

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times