UK imposes first sanctions targeting ships breaching Russian oil restrictions

Russian President Putin attends St. Petersburg International Economic Forum

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain on Thursday imposed its first sanctions targeting vessels in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s "shadow fleet" that it said was used to circumvent Western sanctions on the trade in Russian oil.

The action, part of 50 new sanctions and co-ordinated with G7 partners, also targeted suppliers of munitions, machine tools, microelectronics, and logistics to Russia’s military, including entities based in China, Israel, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey, the government said.

"Today’s action includes the UK’s first sanctions targeting vessels in Putin’s shadow fleet, used by Russia to circumvent UK and G7 sanctions and continue unfettered trade in Russian oil," a government statement said.

Britain also sanctioned Russia's leading financial marketplace, the Moscow Exchange, saying it had obtained a benefit from or supported the Kremlin "by carrying on business in a sector of strategic significance."

On Wednesday, U.S. sanctions against the same institution forced an immediate suspension of trading in dollars and euros on its leading financial marketplace.

"Today we are once more ramping up economic pressure through sanctions to bear down on Russia’s ability to fund its war machine," Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is at the meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) major democracies in Italy, said in the statement.

"Putin must lose, and cutting off his ability to fund a prolonged conflict is absolutely vital."

As the annual summit of the G7 nations gets underway, Britain also committed to providing 242 million pounds ($308.99 million) in bilateral assistance to Ukraine to support its immediate humanitarian, energy and stabilisation needs.

The G7 leaders are expected to announce the outline of a multi-year loan using profits from the impounded Russian funds, which legal experts will then finalise with the aim of raising cash by the end of the year.

($1 = 0.7832 pounds)

(Reporting by Muvija M; editing by William James)