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Russian F1 driver added to list of people sanctioned by EU | European Union | #socialmedia | #hacking | #aihp

A Formula One driver and a Russian previously linked to a £300m mansion that is London’s second largest house after Buckingham Palace are among 160 individuals added to an EU sanctions list designed to squeeze Vladimir Putin’s “closest circle”.

Nikita Mazepin’s contract with the Haas F1 team was terminated after the invasion of Ukraine. Haas F1 was sponsored by the Russian chemical firm Uralchem, whose general director is Mazepin’s father, Dmitry Arkadievich Mazepin.

Also on the updated list is Andrey Guryev, a fertiliser Russian billionaire, revealed in 2015 to be the beneficiary of an offshore company that owned Witanhurst, a 25-bedroom property in Highgate,north London.

They are among 14 oligarchs and businesspeople on an expanded list of individuals announced on Wednesday whose assets in the EU will be frozen.

EU restrictive measures imposed in response to the invasion of Ukraine and before that to the annexation of Crimea in 2014 now apply to more than 30 Russian businesspeople. This compares to the UK’s sanctions list, which has named just 10 oligarchs since 2014.

Guryev’s links to Witanhurst have been known since 2015 when it was revealed that the grade II listed mansion had been bought by Safran Holdings, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands, in 2008 for £50m.

Guryev confirmed to the New Yorker at the time that he was the beneficiary of Safran Holdings. But it is today unclear whether the billionaire former senator retains a link to the house.

Guryev has been hit with sanctions by the EU due to being chief executive and the chairman of the management board of PJSC PhosAgro, one of the world’s leading producers of phosphate-based fertilisers. The entry in the sanctions list states:

“He is involved in economic sectors providing a substantial source of revenue to the Government of the Russian Federation, which is responsible for the annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of Ukraine.”

Those targeted in the latest wave of sanctions are said by EU officials to be people who through their work provide a substantial source of revenue to the Russian Federation in the metallurgical, agriculture, pharmaceutical, telecom and digital industries.

In its latest round of restrictive measures, the EU has also taken into account a meeting held by Putin on 24 February where the Russian leader discussed with his closest confidantes the Kremlin’s response to western economic restrictions.

Those targeted by the EU include Mikhail Igorevich, the chief executive of the Russian airline Aeroflot whose attendance at the meeting, along with 36 others, is said to show “that he is a member of the closest circle of Vladimir Putin”.

Others who attended the meeting and on whom sanctions have been imposed are Alexander Vinokurov, a businessman, who is married to Ekaterina Sergeevna Vinokurova, who is Lavrov’s daughter, and Andrey Melnichenko, a Russian industrialist who owns the EuroChem Group, who is said to belong “to the most influential circle of Russian businesspeople with close connections to the Russian government”.

The EU has also imposed sanctions on Vladimir Kiriyenko, the chief executive of the Russian internet firm VK Company, which has a large presence in the Russian-language segment of the internet including the popular VKontakte social network.

The EU legal text notes: “VK projects collectively had the largest audience in Russia and captured the most screen time.

“VK’s sites reach more than 90% of Russian internet users on a monthly basis and the company is in the top five of largest internet companies, based on the number of total pages viewed … The Russian government is increasing its influence over media and social networks.”

The text points out that VK Company is controlled by Gazprom Media, a state-owned company which is “the major source of income to the Russian government”.

The EU has additionally imposed sanctions on 146 members of the Russian senate who ratified a treaty recognising the self-proclaimed republics in Luhansk and Donetsk.

The EU’s policy is driven by a desire to increase the pressure on those who have enriched themselves under Putin’s leadership to encourage them to act against the Russian president.

What exactly does Putin want in Ukraine? – video explainer
What exactly does Putin want in Ukraine? – video explainer

The EU is also seeking to squeeze Alexander Lukashenko’s regime in Belarus because of his government’s assistance to Putin’s invading forces.

In the latest round of punitive measures, four Belarusian banks have been cut off from the Swift payments system, while transactions are now prohibited with the Central Bank of Belarus.

The EU has already blocked seven Russian banks from Swift, and leaders of the 27 member states will debate taking further measures against Sberbank and Gazprombank, the vehicles of gas and oil payments, when they meet in Versailles on Thursday, officials said.

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As with Russians, the EU has now banned Belarusian citizens from depositing more than €100,000 in European banks.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign policy, said: “With these additional sectoral sanctions, we are sending a strong message: the unprovoked and unjustified military aggression waged against Ukraine by the Putin regime with assistance by Lukashenko comes at a high price.

“We are closing the loopholes of our existing sanctions and imposing further measures on Belarus’s financial sector.”

An EU official said all the evidence suggested sanctions were having the desired effect on the Russian economy.

“You know, that the Russian stock exchange is closed, the credit rating agencies have downgraded Russian government bonds quite drastically,” the official said. “The rouble has lost more than a third of its value. Interest rates in Russia have been doubled. We have also seen the reaction of private companies in Russia.”

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