Are sanctions against Russia tough enough for Britons?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
February 25, 2022, 1:35 PM GMT+0

Most Britons think they need to go further

Following the announcement of the first round of British economic sanctions against Russia on Tuesday, prime minister Boris Johnson came under fire from MPs, including those in his own party, for not going far enough.

Now a new YouGov survey, conducted last night after the Russian invasion of Ukraine had begun, shows that most Britons (58%) think that initial sanctions imposed by the UK do not go far enough.

Only 15% think they are about right, and only 4% think they go too far.

The is cross-party consensus that the sanctions don’t go far enough, with 63% of Conservatives and 61% of Labour voters agreeing on this.

What do Britons think of further sanctions against Russia that have been suggested?

YouGov also examined attitudes to further sanctions that have been proposed.

There has been much discussion about cutting Russia out of the SWIFT international payments system, although there is reportedly disagreement among Western nations about the usefulness of doing so.

This proved the measure Britons are second most likely to say sounds appropriate, at 46%, compared to 32% who think it doesn’t go far enough. Only 4% think it is a step too far.

Following the initial rounds of sanctions, which only targeted three Russian individuals, there were calls for more action against Russian oligarchs and their assets in the UK. The survey showed that 39-44% of Britons think that, when it comes to high profile Russian allises of the Russian leadership, it would be “about right” to: ban UK firms from providing financial and legal services to them; freeze their financial assets in the UK; withdraw any permission to live in the UK they might have; and to seize their property assets in the UK. This compares with 35-39% who think these measures don’t go far enough – only 3-6% think they go too far.

There is notably less support for suspending the children of Russian oligarchs from private schools in Britain. One in three (33%) say this sounds about right, with 26% saying it doesn’t go far enough. One in six (17%) say it goes too far, the highest of any measure.

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Labour MP Chris Bryant urged the government to take action against Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich for “his links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activity and practices”. This included seizing the oligarch’s assets, including removing his ownership of Chelsea Football Club.

Only a third of Britons (35%) say that such a sanction sounds “about right”. However, a further quarter (26%) say that such a move doesn’t go far enough, suggesting that most Britons could back the measure or something even tougher. Only 13% of people think it goes too far, the second highest of any proposed sanction.

This morning the prime minister announced that he was banning Russian state-owned airline Aeroflot from using British airspace and landing at British airports. Russia has responded to the ban in kind, prohibiting British planes from using their airspace.

Blocking the Russian airline is the measure that most Britons declare to be “about right”, at 49%. A further 29% consider it to not go far enough, while 5% think it pushes things too far.

Russian state-owned television news channel RT has been a cause for concern in the UK long before the invasion of Ukraine, as it is seen as a propaganda arm of the Russian state. Shortly prior to the invasion, with tensions escalating in Eastern Europe, the Labour party called for the broadcaster to be banned.

More than four in ten Britons (43%) say that banning the broadcaster sounds “about right”, with another 30% saying it doesn’t go far enough.

Attitudes towards each of the measures are similar across the board for Labour and Conservative voters, with Tory voters generally being marginally more likely than their Labour counterparts to say they don’t go far enough.

See the full results here

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