LONDON, March 3 (Reuters) - Britain opposes trade sanctions on Russia and does not want to shut London’s financial capital to Russians in response to the Kremlin’s intervention in Ukraine, the BBC reported, citing a document which was inadvertently shown to a photographer.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has warned President Vladimir Putin that Russia will have to pay ‘significant costs’ unless the Kremlin changes course on Ukraine whose Crimea region is now controlled by Russian forces.
But an official document which was photographed as a senior official carried it into a meeting in Cameron’s Downing Street residence on Monday showed Britain may oppose sanctions that might undermine London’s reputation as a haven for Russian capital.
“The UK should not support for now trade sanctions or close London’s financial centre to Russians,” the BBC quoted the document as saying.
The document, whose text could not be clearly made out from the photograph published by the BBC, showed that British ministers are considering visa restrictions and travel bans on senior Russian figures, the BBC said.
When asked about the report, a spokeswoman for Cameron’s office said it did not comment on leaked documents.
“The Prime Minister is clear that continuing to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty will have costs and consequences,” the spokeswoman said.
“We will take decisions on what these are in close collaboration with EU and G7 partners and together are considering a range of diplomatic, political and economic measures.”
The document described supporting European Union contingency work on providing Ukraine with alternative gas supplies “if Russia cuts them off”. Russia, which supplies around a quarter of continental European demand, cut gas supplies to Ukraine in 2006 and 2009.
The BBC said the document was being carried by a senior official but did not identify the person, and it was not clear whether the document detailed suggestions for discussion or set out Britain’s official position.
If an accurate reflection of British policy, the document shows the difficulties the West faces in agreeing on sanctions that could deter Putin from further action in Ukraine.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Monday he was very concerned about the possibility that the Kremlin might send troops further into Ukraine in what he said was already the biggest crisis in Europe so far this century.
Hague said that Russia now had operational control of the Crimea peninsula and that while Russia had the legal right to base troops in the region, the Kremlin should order them to return to their barracks.
“Clearly we are very concerned about any possibly of a further move by Russia in other parts of Ukraine but that does not mean the position in the Crimea is stable,” Hague told the BBC in an interview.