Moscow issues sanctions against UK journalists and defence officials

Russia has sanctioned 49 UK citizens, including journalists, defence officials and arms industry executives, in response to western punitive measures against Moscow over President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Those targeted, including Financial Times chief foreign affairs commentator Gideon Rachman, are barred from visiting Russia, which the foreign ministry said was retaliation for “the UK government’s anti-Russian actions” in sanctioning several leading Kremlin propagandists and executives at state-run defence corporations.

The Russian foreign ministry said on Tuesday said the 29 journalists it had sanctioned were “deliberately disseminating false and one-sided information about Russia and the events in Ukraine and the Donbas”, the eastern border region home to the worst fighting of the war.

It added that the journalists — who also included BBC director-general Tim Davie, the editors of the Times, Telegraph, and Guardian — were “inciting Russophobia in British society with their biased assessments.”

All but a few of the journalists listed appeared not to have visited Russia or covered the country for several years, if ever.

Shaun Walker, who was the Guardian’s Moscow correspondent until 2018, wrote on Twitter that it was “still a very strange/sad feeling to be put on their sanctions list along with other British colleagues.”

Two of those sanctioned as journalists are UK university professors apparently targeted for newspaper columns and media appearances.

Mark Galeotti, a professor at University College London who studies the Russian security services and organised crime, tweeted that his ban was a “shame,” adding: “I still think of myself as a friend of Russia the country.”

The list also included 20 people associated with the UK defence industry, including minister for defence procurement Jeremy Quin, the heads of the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, and several executives from BAE Systems and Thales UK.

Russia said those people “participate in decision-making about supplying weapons to Ukraine that are used by local death squads and Nazi groups to kill civilians and destroy civilian infrastructure”.

Moscow has repeatedly made baseless claims that Ukraine is controlled by Nazis and is terrorising its own civilians to justify its invasion.

The UK Ministry of Defence had no immediate comment.

Russia has previously targeted journalists from the US and Canada in response to western sanctions but also largely spared those currently or previously covering the country.

It has also sanctioned UK prime minister Boris Johnson, most of the cabinet, 287 members of parliament, and 154 members of the House of Lords. Hundreds of officials, former officials, and lawmakers from the US and Canada are also banned from entering Russia.

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