Thank you to all those who contacted me about Yevgeny Prigozhin.
I am aware of recent revelations, brought to light by Open Democracy, about the Government’s granting of sanctions waivers to Yevgeny Prigozhin in 2021. These waivers allowed Prigozhin – who we know to have direct links with the Wagner Group – to fund legal action against British investigative journalist Eliot Higgins.
This legal action was a perfect example of a strategic lawsuit against public participation, designed to silence critics through financial intimidation. That Prigozhin, whose Wagner Group is responsible for appalling atrocities in Ukraine and around the world, was given a Government exemption from sanctions to pursue such a case is very serious.
On 25 January 2023, the Shadow Foreign Secretary raised this case in the House of Commons. I was deeply disappointed by the Minister’s evasive response. However, the Minister did say that HM Treasury is now reviewing its approach to cases such as this and examining whether changes can be made without assuming unacceptable legal risk.
This review is welcome but I believe there are several points the Government should now address. Firstly, I believe there should be transparency over whether a Minister signed off on the waivers. Secondly, the Government should consider an investigation into this case. Finally, I believe we finally need action to restrict the provision of legal services to Russia, as the EU already has.