Britain must choose either Russian money or democracy
Temerko is impassioned about the parlous state his motherland is in, with more than 100,000 Russian troops massed on its borders. While he applauds Johnson’s tough line on the Kremlin’s aggression, he is vitriolic about how the prime minister is “strong on rhetoric but very, very poor on implementation”.
He has an alternative that he says would really hurt the oligarchy. “We need to stop our country acting like a financial pumping house, stop it from being a market that makes Putin’s cronies, Putin’s elite, richer and richer,” he argues. “That means blocking any Russian company that is state-controlled or has state capital invested in it from any financial facility in the UK, including any listing on the stock exchange. If I was in the government, that’s what I would be doing.”
Raising his voice, he insists: “We have a choice. We either protect democracy or we protect Russian money. That is what would help the Ukraine, and the UK economy as well.” He would not stop there, and has one of Britain’s biggest companies in his sights. “We need to talk about BP and why it is a shareholder in Rosneft, which is under sanction and run by a close friend of Putin? It is the biggest investor in Russia.”
On the Ukraine crisis itself, Temerko does not believe Putin has decided whether to invade. Instead, his guess is that he will continue toying with the West for a while, probably “until the summer” to see what concessions he can win from Nato and the European Union.
But offering Putin a deal would be a disaster, he says. “If you tried to find a compromise with him, he considers you weak. You are not strong, so he won’t negotiate with you for anything.”