Politics

Seize oligarchs’ UK properties to house Ukrainian refugees, government told

The government should seize properties owned by oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin and use them to house Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion, the Liberal Democrats have said.

Alistair Carmichael, the party’s home affairs spokesperson, has made the call in a letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Russia ‘seizes’ Kherson, as blasts light up sky in Kyiv – latest updates on Ukraine

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‘Putin miscalculated his assault’

Key developments:
Ukraine says nearly 9,000 Russian soldiers have been killed – as first major city ‘falls’ to invaders
One million people have now fled Ukraine, says UN refugee commissioner
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Five children among those detained in Moscow for laying flowers at Ukraine embassy
• International Criminal Court opens investigation into possible war crimes

‘Freeze assets and put them to good use’

“For too long Putin‘s cronies have treated London as their playground, buying up luxury properties as a way to launder their dirty money,” he said.

“Much of this property is currently sitting empty, while Ukrainian families are desperately fleeing their homeland looking for a safe place to live.

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“It’s time to freeze these assets and put them to good use, by temporarily housing Ukrainian refugees escaping this terrible war.

“The government needs to learn the lessons from the botched Afghan resettlement scheme that saw families left languishing in crowded hotel rooms for months before being rehomed.”

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PM vows UK will take Ukrainian refugees

PM promises to ‘tighten the noose around Putin’s regime’

More than one million people have fled Ukraine since the conflict began last week.

The UK has said that more than 200,000 Ukrainians could be allowed to join family in the UK amid the Russian invasion.

Ukrainians living in the UK will be allowed to bring in adult parents, grandparents, children over 18 and siblings, in addition to immediate family members.

Facing MPs in the Commons on Wednesday, Boris Johnson said the UK will “continue to tighten the noose around Putin’s regime” over his invasion of Ukraine and insisted sanctions already imposed were having an impact.

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The prime minister promised a “full list of all those associated” with the Russian president who could be liable for sanctions will be published.

Number 10 said a “significant proportion” of people who are set to appear on the government’s list will be sanctioned.

Government ‘taking too long’ over sanctions for individuals

But some have accused the government of not being quick enough to sanction individuals linked to Putin.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer used PMQs to urge Mr Johnson to bring forward sanctions against “every oligarch” and “crack open every shell company” in order to put further pressure on Putin’s regime.

Sir Keir asked why Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who he described as a “person of interest to the Home Office because of his links to the Russian state”, had not yet been sanctioned.

Mr Abramovich, who denies having links with the Russian president, announced on Wednesday evening that he was putting the west London club up for sale.

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‘Why isn’t Ambramovich sanctioned?’

He also asked why action had not been taken by the government against Igor Shuvalov, Putin’s former deputy prime minister, who he accused of being among those Kremlin “cronies” who “dip their hand in the blood of Putin’s war”.

The Labour leader told MPs that Mr Shuvalov owns two flats “not five minutes’ walk” from parliament that are worth over £11m.

Speaking in the Commons on Monday, Labour MP Chris Bryant said the government was “taking too long” to sanction individuals and suggested they were “frightened of lawyers’ letters from all these oligarchs’ friends”.

Read more: Putin’s ‘mistakes’, Zelenskyy’s ‘heroism’ and the West’s reaction – the key takeaways from the first week

Responding to Mr Bryant, the home secretary said there are “lots of legal reasons” behind the time it is taking to bring in such measures.

“There is a lot of detailed work taking place on sanctions, and much of that is coming to the House pretty soon,” she said.

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