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NPR National News

New U.K. sanctions target Russian vodka, luxury vehicles, fashion and artwork

A Russian police officer and national guard servicemen patrol Red Square next to Burberry shop in Moscow on Thursday. The U.K. imposed a new export ban that will likely affect luxury vehicles, high-end fashion and works of art.
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AFP via Getty Images
A Russian police officer and national guard servicemen patrol Red Square next to Burberry shop in Moscow on Thursday. The U.K. imposed a new export ban that will likely affect luxury vehicles, high-end fashion and works of art.

The United Kingdom announced a new slate of sanctions against Russia on Tuesday, aimed at isolating and exerting pressure on the country's economy amidst its war of aggression in Ukraine.

The measures include a ban on exports of high-end luxury goods to Russia — in line with other G-7 nations — and steep import tariffs on goods like vodka, artwork and antiques. The U.K. is also denying Russia and Belarus access to "most favoured nation" tariffs for hundreds of exports, which officials say deprives the countries of key benefits of World Trade Organization membership.

"The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with our international partners in our determination to punish [Russian President Vladimir] Putin for his barbaric actions in Ukraine, and we will continue our work to starve his regime of the funds that enable him to carry them out," International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said in a statement.

The government says the export ban will likely affect luxury vehicles, high-end fashion and works of art, and will "make sure oligarchs and other members of the elite ... are deprived of access to luxury goods." It says it will take effect shortly, with more details to be announced "in due course."

It also published a list of goods that will now face an additional 35% tariff, on top of existing rates. Those include iron, steel, copper, aluminum, beverages, spirits and vinegar, glass and glassware, cereals, machinery, works of art, antiques, fur skins and artificial fur, ships and whitefish.

"These products have been selected to inflict maximum damage on the Russian economy while minimising the impact on the UK," officials explained.

Denying Russia's access to most favoured nation tariff treatment for key imports, on top of the additional tariffs, will serve to restrict Russian exports to the U.K., they added.

"The World Trade Organization is founded on respect for the rule of law, which Putin has shown he holds in contempt," Trevelyan said. "By depriving his government of key benefits of WTO membership, we are denying him further resource for his invasion."

Many luxury brands — including Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Hermès and Burberry — and major retailers are among the companies that have suspended operations in Russia in recent weeks.

Tuesday's move come less than a week after the U.K. announced sanctions — including an asset freeze and travel ban — on what it described as seven of Russia's richest and most connected oligarchs. They include Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club, and Oleg Deripaska, who is believed to own the London mansion that was occupied by squatters on Monday.

The G-7 and European Union are similarly moving to revoke Russia's most favored nation status, with the U.S. and Canada among the first countries to take that step.

The U.K. has sanctioned more than 1,000 Russian individuals and entities so far

The U.K. also announced new sanctions on hundreds of Russian and Belarusian individuals in a separate statement on Tuesday, which it said brought its total number of sanctions to more than 1,000 since Russia first invaded Ukraine.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the government is placing sanctions on some 370 people, including 51 oligarchs and their family members. This new group of oligarchs — which includes businessmen Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan — has a combined estimated net worth of more than $130 billion, she added.

The sanctions also target allies of Putin — like Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev — and purveyors of pro-Kremlin propaganda, including Putin's press secretary and the foreign affairs ministry spokesperson.

"We are going further and faster than ever in hitting those closest to Putin – from major oligarchs, to his Prime Minister, and the propagandists who peddle his lies and disinformation," Truss said. "We are holding them to account for their complicity in Russia's crimes in Ukraine."

These individuals will have their assets in the U.K. frozen, meaning no citizen or company there can do business with them. They are also banned from traveling to or from the U.K.

Truss said the majority of Tuesday's sanctions were made possible by new powers under the just-passed Economic Crime Act, which allows the government to "immediately designate individuals and entities under an urgent procedure, while evidence is gathered to sanction them under our own standard procedure."


This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

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