British pro-Kremlin video blogger added to UK government Russia sanctions list | Russia
A British citizen who video blogs pro-Kremlin material from Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine has been added to a UK government sanctions list.
Graham Phillips, who has been accused of being a conduit for pro-Russian propaganda, is one of 42 new designations added to the UK’s Russia sanctions list. Other additions include Russia’s minister and deputy minister of justice and two nephews of the Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who was himself placed under sanctions by Britain in March.
Phillips – the first UK citizen to be added to the growing sanctions list – has long been a controversial figure, receiving medals from the Russian state for his reporting. He has consistently toed the Russian line on the war, suggesting in recent weeks that Ukraine is run by Nazis and that the massacre of Ukrainians in Bucha was staged.
In April Phillips drew condemnation from Boris Johnson and others when he interviewed Aiden Aslin, a British member of the Ukrainian armed forces who had been captured by Russian forces during the siege of Mariupol. Aslin is facing the death penalty.
The new UK sanctions list includes Syrian officials accused of recruiting mercenaries to fight in Ukraine, as well as Vitaliy Khotsenko, the Russian-imposed prime minister of the self-proclaimed republic in Donetsk, and Vladislav Kuznetsov, the first deputy chairman of the self-proclaimed republic in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine.
Sarvar and Sanjar Ismailov, the nephews of Alisher Usmanov, have significant interests in the UK and are believed to own homes in Highgate and Hampstead Heath in London.
Phillips – who faces a freeze of his assets – is described on the sanctions list as “a video blogger who has produced and published media content that supports and promotes actions and policies which destabilise Ukraine and undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty or independence of Ukraine”.
Commenting on the newly sanctioned individuals, the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, said: “We will not keep quiet and watch Kremlin-appointed state actors suppress the people of Ukraine or the freedoms of their own people. We will continue to impose harsh sanctions on those who are trying to legitimise Putin’s illegal invasion until Ukraine prevails.”
Johnson described Phillips’ interview with Aslin as a “propaganda message” for Russia. Aslin’s local MP, Robert Jenrick, said Phillips’ video showed his constituent “handcuffed, physically injured and being interviewed under duress for propaganda purposes”.
Jenrick said the video was a breach of the Geneva conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war and that “the interviewer Graham Phillips is in danger of prosecution for war crimes”.
Aslin was captured by Russian forces while defending the besieged city of Mariupol, although it remains unclear how he ended up being interviewed by Phillips.
Phillips says his work is self-funded and regularly solicits donations from his 264,000 YouTube subscribers. He also earns money from YouTube adverts paid for by big western companies. YouTube has so far declined to take down Phillips’ videos, despite calls from politicians to remove the channel.
In July 2014 he was banned from entering Ukraine but managed to illegally enter the occupied territories.
His rise from obscure Briton abroad to figure of national political interest was unlikely. According to a 2014 interview with BuzzFeed News, Phillips first went to Ukraine when travelling as an away fan to an England football match.
Aged 30, he quit his job at the now defunct UK government Central Office of Information and moved full-time to Ukraine, where he reinvented himself as a journalist.