London: Hundreds of wealthy Russians who moved to the UK promising to invest millions of pounds in businesses will have their visas reviewed under plans for a crackdown following the nerve agent attack on a former spy.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said her officials will be trawling through the cases of 700 Russians who were given permission to come to the UK before 2015 under the investor visa scheme, in which they promise to invest 2 million pounds ($2.8 million, Dh10 million) or more.
The system has been tightened since it was introduced, but concerns have been raised that it was open to abuse and allowed corrupt individuals and illicit funds into the UK. Prime Minister Theresa May has previously identified the issue as something that would be looked at.
May blamed Russia for the attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, this month in Salisbury, England. She threw out 23 Russian spies she said were posing as diplomats, and won international support for similar expulsions from 25 countries including the US, Canada, and Germany.
“I have asked my officials to look at what reforms we might continue with and to take a look at previous ones over the past few years,” Rudd told Parliament’s home affairs committee on Wednesday.
May has said there’s “no place” for corrupt Russian elites — or their money — in London, and suggested that police could target rich Russians and demand they account for their wealth.
More countries join in
Slovakia will recall its ambassador to Russia for consultations over the poisoning, and may take stronger steps, Foreign Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajcak said on Wednesday.
The central European country has not joined 19 EU countries, the US and Australia in expelling Russian diplomats but Lajcak did not rule out doing so later.
“The government has backed my recommendation to recall our ambassador to Russia for consultations. It’s a serious diplomatic step, we haven’t recalled an ambassador in 25 years,” Miroslav Lajcak told reporters after a regular government meeting.
“The process continues, I will meet with the head of Slovakia’s secret service today and, depending on the information, we are ready to take further steps.” Slovakia’s President Andrej Kiska on Tuesday criticised the government for not taking tougher diplomatic steps, calling for “a principled and clear attitude in response to a request for solidarity coming from one of our important partners.”
Prime Minister Peter Russia’s Ambassador to Australia said on Wednesday the world will enter into a “Cold War situation” should the West continue its bias against Moscow.
“The West must understand that the anti-Russian campaign has no future,” Russian Ambassador Grigory Logvinov told reporters in Canberra.
“If it continues, we will be deeply in a Cold War situation.” Russia denies any part in the March 4 nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England.
The United States and governments across Europe are expelling Russian diplomats en masse in response.
Australia said on Tuesday it would expel two Russian diplomats, prompting Logvinov’s impromptu address to the media on Wednesday morning.
Logvinov rejected accusations that Moscow was behind the attack and said Russia has yet to decide on its response to the diplomatic action by British allies.
“I said we have no evidence. The British stubbornly denied giving any evidence. They have denied following the provisions and protocol of the Convention on Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” he said.
Russia’s ambassador to Indonesia, Lyudmila Georgievna Vorobieva, said the situation surrounding the Skripal case and the expulsions of Russian diplomats was “absolutely absurd”.
Speaking to reporters in reports in the capital, Jakarta, she warned that the confrontation could lead, not to a Cold War but an “ice war”.
“What is worse than an ice war? It’s a hot war,” she said.
“Do we want that? Well, I can tell you from Russia’s side definitely we don’t want that because if we take into account the number of nuclear weapons accumulated by the country — this kind of development would be fatal for our planet.” Russia wanted to cooperate in the investigation of the attack on the Skripals “in a very transparent way”, she said, but added that Russian consular access to the two in hospital in Britain had been denied.
“We’re not concealing anything,” said Vorobieva.
Indonesia has not expelled any Russian diplomats and Vorobieva said Russia appreciated its “balanced positions” and the fact it was not “jumping to any conclusions”.