UK law firms will be unable to provide “transactional legal advisory services” to Russians after the government ratcheted up the sanctions regime yet further.
In the wake of President Putin annexing four Ukrainian regions, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said Russia would also lose access to IT consultancy, architectural, engineering, advertising and auditing services.
When the government first banned services exports to Russia in May – encompassing accountancy, management consultancy and PR – legal services were deliberately excluded.
Russia imports two-thirds of its services from sanctioning countries, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office said.
“Russia is highly dependent on Western countries for legal services with 85% of all legal services being imported from G7 countries – given London is an international legal centre, the UK accounts for 59% of these imports.
“The new legal advisory measures will cover certain commercial and transactional services and hamper Russia’s businesses’ ability to operate internationally.”
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said the details of what precisely covered by the ban would be published in the coming weeks.
Mr Cleverly added: “The UK utterly condemns Putin’s announcement of the illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory. We will never recognise the results of these sham referendums or any annexation of Ukrainian territory.
“The Russian regime must be held to account for this abhorrent violation of international law. That’s why we are working with our international partners to ramp up the economic pressure through new targeted services bans.”
Back in May, in explaining why legal services were not included in the sanctions, then justice minister James Cartlidge, said: “Legal services are distinct from other services in the role they play in supporting a flourishing democracy and upholding the rule of law.
“Access to legal professionals is considered a fundamental right in democratic societies. It enables businesses and individuals to exercise their rights and comply with their duties.
“We only have to look at Russia – where corruption is rife and government critics are silenced – to see why the rule of law is so important. Here in the UK, rule of law means that everyone has a right to access legal representation.
“The government needs to defend these rights – in contrast to authoritarian jurisdictions.”