UK joins US in imposing sanctions on Putin’s daughters

Maria Vorontsova and Katerina Tikhonova will be subject to asset freeze and travel ban

The UK has imposed sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters, following in the footsteps of the US in another symbolic move to put pressure on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Katerina Tikhonova and Maria Vorontsova will be subject to an asset freeze and a travel ban, although it is not clear whether either of them has ever visited the UK or whether they own any assets within reach of UK officials.

The US imposed sanctions on the women on Wednesday, with a senior US official saying that many of Putin’s assets were hidden with family members. There have been persistent but unconfirmed reports that Putin has fathered other daughters but Tikhonova and Vorontsova are his only publicly acknowledged children.

Both were designated by the UK on Friday under an urgent procedure, under which the government can impose sanctions on the basis of allies’ evidence if they think it is in the public interest. The urgent procedure gives the UK 56 days to find its own evidence.

The EU has also imposed sanctions on the sisters as part of a new package of measures targeting Russia’s economy, businessmen and oligarchs, according to two EU officials who spoke to Associated Press on condition of anonymity. Neither daughter had been added to the EU’s public sanctions list on Friday morning.

A report on the EUobserver website earlier this week, citing a draft version of that EU list, claimed the soon-to-be-announced sanctions would also cover several wives, ex-wives, sisters, stepdaughters and mothers-in-law of pro-Kremlin oligarchs.

Putin’s daughters with his former wife, Lyudmila, have kept a low public profile and have not made any official public appearances with him as adults.

The UK’s sanctions designation said Vorontsova was born in April 1985 in Leningrad, now St Petersburg, and that Tikhonova was born a year later in Dresden, where Putin worked undercover as a spy for the KGB intelligence service until the fall of the Soviet Union.

The US described Tikhonova as a “tech executive”. It said Vorontsova, thought to be a paediatric endocrinologist studying the effects of hormones on the body, leads state-funded programmes that have “received billions of dollars from the Kremlin toward genetics research and are personally overseen by Putin”.

Tikhonova, who uses the surname of her maternal grandmother, studied at St Petersburg State University and Moscow State University and has a master’s degree in physics and mathematics.

While Putin has previously said they “live their own lives”, the US government has said there is evidence that those around them have benefited from their father’s power.

Tikhonova was previously married to Kirill Shamalov, who was designated for sanctions in April 2018 by the US in response to Russia’s “worldwide malign activity”. The US government said Shamalov married Tikhonova in February 2013.

“His fortunes drastically improved following the marriage,” the US said, pointing to the acquisition of a large portion of shares of Sibur, a Russian oil and gas producer, and a $1bn loan from the state-controlled Gazprombank that helped propel him into the “billionaire elite”.