Britain may broadcast the financial secrets of Russia’s ruling elite as part of the information war against the Putin regime, the Foreign Secretary has indicated.
Philip Hammond said he was interested by the idea of publicising the wealth of the Russian president’s inner circle in order to embarrass them in front of their people, as part of the response to the ongoing incursion into eastern Ukraine.
The Foreign Secretary warned that Putin is rapidly modernising his armed forces, and warned Russia’s bid to destabilise eastern Europe poses “the greatest single threat” to British national security.
Mr Hammond said that Britain must now “accept” that efforts to offer Russia its “rightful place” in the post-Cold War order had been “rebuffed”.
It marks a change in tone from the British government: David Cameron has repeated said that the door is open to Russia to normalise relations.
He warned that Russia’s rapid rearmament is a “significant cause for concern,” and confirmed that British intelligence agencies are now recruiting Russian speakers.
The wealth of Putin’s court is opaque, but undoubtedly runs into tens of billions of dollars held in offshore accounts and property in London and New York.
Official statements of Putin’s wealth – a £96,000 a year salary, a flat and three cars – are frequently met with derision.
Asked if there was a case for the “interesting” financial arrangements of members of Putin’s inner circle to be published by the British government, Mr Hammond replied: “There might be.”
“When we talk about having further steps that we can take, increasing the pressure on Russia, one the headings that we regularly review is strategic communication.
“It is an interesting thought and I will make sure the Strat Comms people are thinking precisely about that.”
Mr Cameron has suggested the BBC budget should be increased to help its Russian and Ukrainian language services counter Russian television propaganda.
Source: The Telegraph