UK 'Hypocrisy': Not Punishing UK-Based Russian Oligarchs

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 9/02/2014 01:30:00 AM
"Only plebs complain about Vlad, dahling!"
Oh, the times they are a-changing: The gossip among Londoners in the posh parts of town is how usually flamboyant, noveau riche Russian oligarchs are lying low (for now). A few dozen less bottle blondes mixing with the Sloane Rangers and the chatter kicks into overdrive. The vulgar displays of oligarchs, their wives, mistresses, and assorted hangers-on in London has even spawned a trashy TV reality show. For those who experienced it--I did at the tail end while working there for two years--it was quite a parade.

Even if Russians are lying low in London, however, there are still signs of disquiet about how they continue to travel to and fro and conduct business quite freely. All this has raised the ire of anti-Russian voices especially after the events in Ukraine. With new European sanctions on the way, why all this British hypocrisy that allows the likes of Putin crony Roman Abramovich to splurge as much as he wants on Chelsea FC and more?
“Mr Cameron appealed to European governments to freeze accounts of oligarchs close to [President Vladimir] Putin. He can do it himself, with Roman Abramovich,” said Andrei Piontkovsky, a political analyst at the Russian Academy of Sciences, referring to the England-based owner of Chelsea FC. “Abramovich is one of Putin’s closest associates, he is one of those who put Putin in his post in 1999,” Mr Piontkovsky said.

His comments highlighted an apparent contradiction in the UK’s position. Government officials said Britain supported EU sanctions against those Russians who had indirectly helped support Russia’s interference in Ukraine – but Russians in the UK would not, for now, be affected. On Tuesday, Labour MPs called for the Conservatives to return a £160,000 donation from the wife of a former Russian finance minister who won a party fundraising auction to play tennis with the prime minister and Boris Johnson, the London mayor. Lubov Chernukhin, the banker and wife of Vladimir Chernukhin, made the winning bid at this month’s Conservative summer party held at the Hurlingham private members’ club in Fulham, west London.

The role of Russian money in the UK – particularly London – is extensive. Russia’s oligarchs, business people and senior officials have become one of the largest national groups of buyers for London properties worth £10m or more. There are now 113 companies from Russia and the broader CIS region with shares quoted on the London Stock Exchange.
I'll have more soon on the ongoing debates about how Russian buyers are shaking up the market for prime real estate in central London. Meanwhile, the Tories have some explaining to do with this "kick the Russians...except 'our' Russians" behavior. Dahling.

UPDATE: Also see this earlier Foreign Affairs article on this issue.