Russian elites could have their property seized and handed over to Ukrainian refugees, the deputy prime minister has suggested.
Dominic Raab made the remarks as he defended the UK’s response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and the prime minister, Boris Johnson, called for an emergency UN summit after a Russian attack on a nuclear power station in Ukraine.
Asked on LBC radio whether Britain could capture property assets owned by Russian oligarchs in punishment for Moscow’s invasion on Ukraine, Raab said: “If we’ve got the evidence and the legal basis, then we’ll do it.”
Pressed on whether he would back using those properties to house Ukrainian refugee – a move called for by the Liberal Democrats and reportedly argued for in government by the housing secretary, Michael Gove – Raab replied: “Yes, absolutely.
“We are looking at everything in the round, it is a team effort across government, from the foreign and defence secretary through to Michael Gove and, of course, the prime minister is driving this very hard.”
The UK government has faced criticism for being too slow in its approach to implementing sanctions against Russian figures and linked assets.
The Labour party chairwoman, Anneliese Dodds, said the UK had got to “stop dragging” its feet in clamping down on funds that have come from figures linked to Putin.
She told Sky News: “I certainly would say that we have been far too soft, especially over the last 10 years, on those funds that have come from Putin-linked oligarchs and business people.”
She added: “We see, even with the new measures that finally have been extracted from the government now that they say they will announce on Monday, an 18-month window before they will come into action – that’s just not good enough.
“We need immediate action now. We can put those registers of foreign-owned property into place in 28 days, we believe we could get those running and force that transparency.”
Raab insisted the the UK was “at the vanguard” of imposing sanctions on Kremlin-linked money.
Asked during broadcast interviews why the European Union had sanctioned more individual Russian elites than Britain, he said on BBC Breakfast it was a “false distinction”, adding: “The question is not whether it is individuals or companies – it is where the money is flowing.”
Separately, he said: “There has been a running commentary that the UK has somehow been slow – we’ve not been slow. We’ve been at the vanguard of taking action and, of course, what is really important is we act in concert with our allies, European, American and other Nato allies.”