UK Politics

UK 'will not curb trade with Russia'

The government will not curb trade with Russia or close London's financial centre to Russians as part of any possible sanctions against Moscow, according to an official document.

But it confirms ministers are considering - along with other EU countries - visa restrictions and travel bans on key Russian figures.

The document was photographed as a senior official carried it into a meeting in Downing Street.

The government refused to comment.

The document says ministers should "discourage any discussion (eg at Nato) of contingency military preparations" and support "contingency EU work on providing Ukraine with alternative gas" and oil supplies "if Russia cuts them off".

'Generic'

Up until now ministers have made no specific threats of action against Russia and Downing Street has stressed the need to keep open the possibility of de-escalating the crisis.

Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday that Russia would face "diplomatic, political, economic and other pressures" to send a "clear message" about its actions in the Ukraine.

Public statements should for now be kept "generic", the document says, whereas specific threats should be "contingent and used for private messaging".

This is in contrast to the specific hard-line threats made by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday.

One senior government source said: "We prefer to speak softly and carry a big stick."

He stressed that European countries were pursuing a deliberate policy of showing to Russia that de-escalation was still possible while being clear that "significant costs" would follow if Moscow did not seek a peaceful conclusion to its dispute with Ukraine.

The BBC understands that Mr Cameron hopes to speak to Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel later.

The German attitude is regarded as crucial since that country is generally in favour of a less confrontational approach to Russia and is heavily dependent on Russian gas and oil.

Downing Street is refusing to comment on the document, though it is understood that other scenarios were considered at a meeting of the National Security Council on Monday.

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