Putin ‘doesn’t care’ about sanctions because he believes Russians ‘can suffer’, says defence secretary

Ben Wallace was told Russian people ‘could suffer greater than Europeans’ during trip to Moscow

Adam Forrest
Wednesday 02 March 2022 09:48 GMT

Putin ‘doesn’t care’ about sanctions aganist Russia, says defence secretary

Vladimir Putin believes the Russian people can easily “suffer” from economic sanctions imposed by the west over the invasion of Ukraine, said the UK’s defence secretary.

Ben Wallace said the Russian president “doesn’t really care” about the impact of sanctions, suggesting there was a false sense of “pride” in the Kremlin at what the Russian people can withstand.

The cabinet minister claimed Putin was in for a “shock” since the measures imposed on the Russian banking system had caused considerable damage to the country’s economy.

Asked on Sky News if Putin cares about sanctions, Mr Wallace said: “You’re point about does he care, he obviously doesn’t really care.”

The minister said: “When I went to the Russia myself, the Russian ministry of defence they were very clear the Russian people could suffer greater than mine or greater than Europeans – ‘We can’t be harmed by sanctions’.

“I think there’s definitely a sense of pride that somehow that Russia suffering equals Russian leadership.”

Mr Wallace: “I think he’s about to be shocked. This is the 21st century. Russian people, like European people, don’t want to go through what they’re about to go through.”

The UK, US and EU has banned top Russian banks from the Swift financial system, the rouble has plummeted and Russians have been seen struggling to get cash out of ATMs. “I think that would have been way beyond the expectations of the Russian system,” said Mr Wallace.

The defence secretary also said Russia forces were “behind schedule” in Ukraine and were finding it “very slow going” in their attempt to take Kyiv and the country’s other major cities.

He warned that Russia would use indiscriminate carpet-bombing tactics against Ukrainian cities in an attempt to “bombard them into submission”.

Mr Wallace told Sky News: “What you are seeing now is those heavy bombardments at night, they won’t come into the cities as much, they will … carpet-bomb cities, indiscriminately in some cases. That is the brutality I’m afraid we are witnessing and it’s going to get worse.”

This map shows the extent of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Boris Johnson will address the Commons during PMQs on Wednesday following his trip to Poland and Estonia, and is likely be pressed on further action the government could take on sanctioning Russian oligarchs and supporting Ukrainian refugees.

In a possible hint that the government could still go further in terms of individual sanctions, the PM said the silence of Russian oligarchs who had investments in the UK over the Ukraine invasion was “inexplicable” and pressed them to “denounce this act of aggression”.

Mr Johnson told ITV News during his trip to Poland: “And those oligarchs who have connections with the Putin regime and who are benefiting from their association with the Russian state, we are going to expose and distrain their assets.”

Fresh sanctions slapped on Moscow by the Foreign Office are designed to prevent Russia from using foreign reserves to lessen the economic impact that international measures are causing.

Additional economic measures introduced by foreign secretary on Tuesday night ban UK individuals and entities from providing financial services to the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, as well as the Ministry of Finance and National Wealth Fund.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) – the country’s sovereign wealth fund – and its chief executive, Kirill Dmitriev, have also been sanctioned, with their assets frozen and a travel ban in place for Mr Dmitriev.

Ms Truss said the decision was aimed at “degrading Russia’s economy” as the West looks to pile financial misery on the country following its invasion of Ukraine.

The foreign secretary also slapped sanctions on Belarus in response to Alexander Lukashenko’s support for the Russian invasion. Four senior defence officials and two Belarusian military enterprises have been sanctioned with immediate effect.

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