UK sanctions target Russian metal, Ukraine grain theft

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The UK has published plans to ban imports of Russian diamonds, copper, aluminium and nickel and announced a new wave of sanctions against Russia, targeting companies connected to the alleged theft of Ukrainian grain.

Along with the United States, Britain and other Group of Seven major economies are set to unveil sanctions and export controls targeting Russia over its war against Ukraine at the G7 summit in Japan this weekend.

"We will legislate later this year to ban imports of Russian diamonds, and end all imports of Russian-origin copper, aluminium and nickel," British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement on Friday.

The UK has already sanctioned 1500 individuals and entities, freezing more than 18 billion pounds ($A34b) of assets in the UK, and sanctioned over 20 billion pounds ($A37b) of UK-Russia goods trade, the statement said.

Plans to target Russian metal follow the imposition of import tariffs and restrictions, meaning the impact on Russian exports to the UK will be muted.

Data shows Britain imported only a small proportion of its aluminium, nickel and diamonds from Russia and did not import any copper from Russia last year.

Then the London Metal Exchange (LME) suspended deliveries of Russian copper, aluminium, nickel and lead into its approved warehouses in Britain, although there was none stored in them.

"The LME will closely monitor the latest development for further details and will communicate to the market in due course should the LME consider any further action is required beyond the suspension that is already in place," it said on Friday.

Russia is a major producer of aluminium, nickel and diamonds. Britain's import ban plans comes as leaders of the G7 nations discuss how to trace Russia's diamond trade with the aim of imposing restrictions at a later stage.

"The global market is fluid, rich in alternative destinations," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday, when asked about possible future diamond restrictions in the European Union.

Britain is sanctioning 86 individuals and entities as part of a new crackdown on what it called "shady individuals and entities" connected to the theft and resale of Ukrainian grain, something Russia has been accused of and has denied.

Targeting entities involved in grain trading is a rare move as such activity typically comes under humanitarian exemptions. Both Russia and Ukraine are major grain exporters to Africa and the Middle East.

"This grain, and other agricultural goods, has been reportedly stolen from warehouses and fields in the temporarily occupied territories in Ukraine," the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said in a statement.

Turning the screws on Russia's wider maritime trade, the UK also sanctioned Sun Ship Management, which it said was an entity connected to Sovcomflot, Russia's largest state-owned shipping company.

The sanctions also target companies connected to Russia's state-owned nuclear energy company Rosatom, and the owner of Russian Copper Company, Igor Altushkin.

Russian nickel and copper producer Nornickel declined to comment. Aluminium producer Rusal, Russian Copper Company and diamond miner Alrosa did not reply to Reuters requests for comment.