LONDON – British lawmakers will be asked to consider legislation this week that will allow ministers to impose a wider range of sanctions on Russia if it moves against Ukraine, the British Foreign Secretary said on Sunday.
Foreign Minister Liz Truss outlined the plan in an interview with Sky News and presented it as part of a wide-ranging effort to deter further aggression by Russian President Vladimir V. Putin. Britain is already supplying defensive weapons to Ukraine and has offered to increase its troop deployments elsewhere in Eastern Europe.
Also on Sunday, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov said Russia would seek clarity from NATO on its intentions. days after the United States and its allies formally rejected Moscow’s demand that NATO withdraw from Eastern Europe and prevent Ukraine from joining the alliance.
Mr. Lavrov’s comments in an interview with Russia’s main government television channel suggested that although Moscow is dissatisfied – as expected – with the Western response, there may still be a glimmer of hope for further diplomacy.
But if diplomacy fails, Ms Truss said, British law would give the country more penalties, so there would be “nowhere to hide” for oligarchs or “any business of interest to the Kremlin and the regime in Russia.” Britain has long been a financial hub for Russia’s wealthy and well – connected, with a British parliamentary report describing London as a “laundering” for illegal Russian money.
While the UK Parliament typically takes weeks or months to pass a bill, emergency procedures allow it to legislate in as little as a day in some circumstances.
Mrs Truss said Britain would not rule out anything and would “look at all options” to support Ukraine as the British government and its allies pursue diplomacy while developing economic sanctions that could persuade Mr Putin not to invade.
“We are doing everything we can through deterrence and diplomacy to urge him to abstain,” Truss, who plans to meet with Ukraine’s president and Russian foreign minister in the next two weeks, told the BBC.
Biden administration officials on Sunday reiterated that the United States believes a Russian invasion is “nutritious”, although Ukraine has tried to downplay the crisis.
Understand Russia’s relationship with the West
Tensions between the regions are growing, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is increasingly willing to take geopolitical risks and assert his claims.
“We have been nothing but clear and transparent about our concerns here in the Pentagon over the rapid construction of the last few months around the border with Ukraine and in Belarus,” Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby told Fox News. Sunday.”
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, appeared alongside the panel’s top Republican, Senator Jim Risch from Idaho. Mr. Menendez said there was “an incredibly strong bipartisan decision to have serious consequences for Russia if it invades Ukraine, and in some cases for what it has already done.”
Mr. Menendez said legislation under discussion was expected to include “massive sanctions against the most significant Russian banks: crippling for their economy, meaningful in terms of consequences for the average Russian and their accounts and pensions.”
However, sanctions were not Mr Lavrov’s focus on Sunday – it was NATO.
He said An official request was sent Sunday to both NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, an alliance that includes Russia. Mr. Lavrov described it as “an urgent requirement to explain how they intend to fulfill their commitment not to strengthen their security at the expense of the security of others.”
“If they do not intend to do so, then they must explain why,” said Mr. Lavrov, adding that “this will be the key issue in determining our further proposals, which we will report to the President of Russia.”
The Kremlin has been highly critical of NATO’s so-called open door policy of granting membership to former communist bloc countries without taking into account Russia’s security concerns. In his remarks, Mr Lavrov reiterated a frequent Kremlin complaint that in the years following the Soviet collapse, NATO had crept ever closer to Russia’s border.
“Now they have come up to Ukraine and they want to pull that country in,” said Mr. Lavrov. “Although everyone understands that Ukraine is not ready and will not make any contribution to strengthening NATO’s security.”
Understand the escalating tensions over Ukraine
As temperatures remained high between most of the West and Russia, a bit of statesmanship apparently succeeded. Russia withdrew from a plan to conduct naval exercises next week in international waters off the coast of Ireland, which had drawn protests from Irish fisheries groups and the Irish government.
The exercises were to take place 150 miles off the south-west coast of Ireland, outside its territorial waters, but within Ireland’s exclusive economic zone, an area in which the country has sovereign rights over marine resources.
Fishermen’s groups raised concerns that the activity could disrupt marine life and endanger an important region for their trade. An organization had planned to protest peacefully against the exercises.
Irish Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney described the proposed exercises in an interview last week with Irish public broadcaster RTE as “simply not welcome and not wanted right now.”
While acknowledging that Russia’s plans were not in conflict with international law of the sea, he said in a statement that his department had raised several concerns with Russian authorities “in light of the current political and security environment in Europe.”
Moscow then decided to move the exercises outside the Irish exclusive economic zone “as a gesture of goodwill,” the Russian ambassador to Ireland, Yuriy Filatov, said in a statement released Saturday.
Mr. Coveney said on Twitter that he welcomed Russia’s response.
Emily Cochrane and Helene Cooper contributed reporting from Washington, and Michael Schwirtz from Kiev, Ukraine.