U.K.'s Johnson Hints He Wants Tougher Sanctions Against Russians

(Bloomberg) -- Britain is looking with envy at U.S. President Donald Trump’s freedom to hit wealthy Russians with tough sanctions in the aftermath of the Salisbury nerve agent poisoning.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he is paying close attention to the Trump’s decision in April to target dozens of tycoons, companies and key allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Those caught included Oleg Deripaska, the billionaire founder and majority shareholder of En+ Group Plc.

“The truth is actually that I think the effect of some of those sanctions particularly on some individuals has been very marked, and I’ve noted that, but we have our own systems and our own approach,” Johnson told reporters traveling with him to Buenos Aires on Monday. “There is a broader question about what the U.K. can do to crack down on people close to Putin who may have illicit or ill-gotten wealth.”

The U.K. isn’t free to develop its own sanctions regime as it must co-ordinate with the rest of the European Union, Johnson said.

Once the country leaves the bloc in March next year it will have the ability to take a tougher line, he said, pointing out that European nations have been slow to act against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The U.K. government is under pressure to crack down on illicit Russian cash flowing through London after the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in March. Diplomatic relations between the U.K. and the Kremlin are virtually frozen in the aftermath of the incident, which prompted a wave of expulsions from Russia’s embassies around the world.

Johnson, who is in Argentina for a meeting of G20 foreign ministers, pointed out that his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, had decided to stay away. “I don’t know why Lavrov hasn’t come,” Johnson said. “He would have had the opportunity to hear my views. He obviously has decided that he doesn’t want to hear them.”

The foreign secretary declined to comment on the case of Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire who’s unable to travel to the U.K. at the moment because of delays in renewing his visa.

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