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UK under pressure over Alexander Lebedev sanctions after Canada move

The British government is under pressure to impose sanctions on Alexander Lebedev after Canada targeted the former KGB agent in a fresh wave of restrictions against Vladimir Putin’s regime.

The billionaire Russian businessman, who little more than a decade ago bought the UK’s Evening Standard and Independent newspapers, was named in Ottawa’s latest sanctions announced on Friday.

James Emmanuel Wanki, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, confirmed to the Guardian on Saturday that Alexander Yevgenievich Lebedev, born in 1959, is on Canada’s sanctions list against Russia.

The restrictions also included a ban on the import of Russian vodka, diamonds and caviar, according to the Globe and Mail.

A UK government spokesperson said: “This government has been resolute in standing up to Russian aggression. We keep all sanctions under review and they are determined after careful consideration.”

But Labour accused the government of dragging its feet in imposing sanctions on those with links to the Russian president.

The party’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, said: “Labour has been clear that anyone with links to the KGB must face sanctions. The Conservatives have been so slow and too soft in issuing sanctions to those with links to Putin.

“There is now an extremely strong case for Alexander Lebedev to face sanctions from the UK and the government must now urgently look at the evidence.”

She accused Boris Johnson of having “form when it comes to protecting the Lebedevs”.

“He failed to release critical information relating to the appointment of Alexander Lebedev’s son to the House of Lords, despite concerns from the security services. This is another case of the prime minister bending the rules to protect his friends,” she said.

Lebedev’s links to Johnson are well documented.

He is also a minority shareholder in the Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta. His son Evgeny, who owns the Evening Standard and is a minority shareholder in The Independent, was appointed to the House of Lords in 2020 despite concerns raised by MI5.

The government was accused of a cover-up last week after it declined a Commons instruction to release information about the decision to make him a peer, claiming it would undermine the confidentiality of those nominated and could degenerate into political point-scoring.

He published a statement in the Standard in February in which he pleaded with Putin to end the war.

The Canadian government said the ban on trade in luxury goods and the addition of 14 oligarchs and Putin associates was aligned with similar measures imposed by allies such as the US and the EU, and would “help to mitigate the potential for Russian oligarchs to circumvent restrictions in other luxury goods markets”.

The sanctions package, announced by Canada’s foreign minister, Mélanie Joly, covers goods that were worth $75.7m (£47m) in 2021. It also bans the export of jewellery, art and kitchenware to Russia and restricts the export of “goods that could be used in the production and manufacture of weapons”.

“The Putin regime must, and will, answer for their unjustifiable acts,” Joly said. “Canada, together with our allies, will be relentless in our efforts to maintain pressure on the Russian regime until it is no longer able to wage war. We are unwavering in our support for Ukraine and its people.”

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According to the Globe and Mail, other figures Canada has newly subjected to sanctions include Gleb Frank, a leading Russian fishery company owner; his father, Sergei Frank, the former minister of transport and former chief executive of Russian shipping firm Sovcomflot; and Sergei Frank’s wife, Ksenia Frank, the daughter of Gennady Timchenko, an oligarch and an associate of Putin.

David Davidovich, a close associate of Roman Abramovich, who has been forced to sell Chelsea football club after being placed under sanctions in the UK, was also sanctioned.

The fresh wave of sanctions came as talks between G7 countries and Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, concluded in Germany.

Canada has to date sanctioned more than 1,000 individuals and entities from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion.


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