The Russian banks and billionaires targeted by UK sanctions

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BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 04: Vladimir Putin, President of Russia looks on during the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at the Beijing National Stadium on February 04, 2022 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
The three Russian oligarchs named in the UK’s initial sanctions over the Ukraine crisis are linked to Vladimir Putin. Photo:Matthew Stockman/Getty

The UK has moved swiftly to impose a first tranche of economic sanctions on Russia after Vladimir Putin ordered troops into two rebel-held regions of Eastern Ukraine.

Boris Johnson announced a series of sanctions against Moscow, imposing asset freezes on five major Russian banks and three high net worth individuals.

Billionaires Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and his nephew Igor Rotenberg, who were named as close associates of the Putin regime, will have their assets in the UK frozen.

“Any assets they hold in the UK will be frozen, the individuals concerned will be banned from travelling here and we will prohibit all UK individuals and entities from having any dealings with them," the prime minister told MPs.

Gennady Timchenko, 69, is the sixth richest man in Russia, with an estimated net worth of £17.3bn. The billionaire hockey enthusiast has wide business interests in energy, transportation and construction via his Volga investment group.

The son of a Soviet military officer, Timchenko was put on the sanctions list because of his involvement with Bank Rossiya, described as “the personal bank for senior officials of the Russian Federation.”

Gennady Timchenko and Putin have reportedly been friends since at least the early 1990s when the businessman was a St Petersburg oil trader and the now-Russian president was a rising politician.

SOCHI, RUSSIA - MAY 16: President Vladimir Putin of Russia poses with businessmen and billionaires Arkady Rotemberg (L) and Gennady Timchenko (C) during a Nignt Hockey League match on May 16, 2015 in Sochi, Russia. Putin was joined by fellow politicians, businessmen and retired NHL players. Putin's team won 18-6, with eight goals scored by Putin. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
Gennady Timchenko is said to have studied with Vladimir Putin at the KGB’s elite spy academy. Photo: Sasha Mordovets/Getty

Boris Rotenberg, 65, who along with his brother Arkady, 70, has a built fortune as co-owner of Russia’s largest gas pipeline and electricity power line construction company, once trained alongside Putin in martial arts in their native Leningrad, later St Petersburg.

Timchenko provided the money for the professional judo club set up by Arkady in the 1990s, where Putin would train.

Boris Rotenberg has an estimated net worth of £1bn. His nephew Igor, 47, who is invested in Russia’s transport sector, is also thought to be worth around £1bn.

ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 27, 2019: Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and Boris Rotenberg, co-owner and a member of the Board of Directors at SMP Bank, awarded the Alexander Nevsky order, during a ceremony to present state awards at the Turbostroitel judo club. Mikhail Tereshchenko/TASS (Photo by Mikhail Tereshchenko\TASS via Getty Images)
Close confidant and childhood friend of Russian president Vladimir Putin, Boris Rotenberg was named Russia’s 69th wealthiest person. Photo:Mikhail Tereshchenko/TASS via Getty

Boris Rotenberg is a major shareholder of SMP Bank, which he founded in 2001 with Arkady. The same year they became partners in Gazprom, the state-owned oil company.

Igor Rotenberg is the chairman of the board of directors of National Telematic Systems and the majority shareholder in the Gazprom Drilling company.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 17, 2021: National Telematic Systems Board Chairman Igor Rotenberg (R) attends the 30th Congress of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. Alexander Shcherbak/TASS (Photo by Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images)
Igor Rotenberg is the majority shareholder in Gazprom Drilling and is also thought to be worth around £1bn. Photo: Alexander Shcherbak/TASS via Getty

The UK's sanctions notice says Boris Rotenberg is "benefiting from or supporting" the Russian state in his role in a key strategic sector.

The prime minister described Boris Rotenberg, Igor Rotenberg and Gennady Timchenko as “Putin’s cronies”.

They all have a track record of offloading shares and businesses onto their children and business partners in what would appear to be attempts to avoid US and EU sanctions.

Read more: Bank of England: Russia-Ukraine crisis could drive UK inflation higher

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, said there was a “further list of oligarchs” the UK would sanction, should Russia make further incursions into Ukraine, as part of an “escalatory package” of measures.

“We still have sanctions left in the locker to impose in the event of a full invasion,” she said.

There are currently 31 Russian companies listed on the London Stock Exchange, with a combined market value of £468bn, according to S&P Global.

MPs have urged the government to impose sanctions on Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and former Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov over their links to Putin.

“I’m not going to go into details about what our future sanctions are but nothing is off the table,” Truss said when asked about possible sanctions on Abramovich.

The five Russian banks being targeted by UK sanctions are Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank.

The Foreign Office said the banks being targeted had bankrolled the Russian occupation of Crimea from 2014.

Bank Rossiya is already under US sanctions from 2014 for its close ties to Kremlin officials.

Promsvyazbank is a top 10 Russian bank, which services 70% of state contracts signed by the Russian ministry of defence.

Rossiya is stakeholder in National Media Group which supported the destabilisation of Ukraine after Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, the UK government said. Gennady Timchenko is a major shareholder in the bank.

Read more: What Germany's Nord Stream 2 halt means for UK consumers

The Black Sea Bank is a Crimean bank and was created in 2014 after Russia annexed the region. The General Bank is a financial institution which also operates in Crimea.

The banks named by Johnson only have a small footprint in the UK.

The UK will also sanction members of the Russian Duma and Federation Council who voted to recognise the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Russia’s ultra-wealthy oligarchs have lost $32bn (£23.5bn) so far this year, with the escalating conflict in Ukraine poised to make that wealth destruction much larger, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a listing of the world’s 500 richest people.

A rapid escalation in sanctions against Russia could further deepen a cost of living crisis in the UK.

"German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has issued an order to halt the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline," Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president and the deputy chair of Russia's security council, said in a tweet.

"Well. Welcome to the brave new world where Europeans are very soon going to pay €2.000 for 1.000 cubic meters of natural gas!" he added.

The UK is expected to target Russian energy and defence companies in the next wave of measures.

Watch: PM claims UK 'out in front' in both support and sanctions