Canberra sanctions Russian oligarchs with links to mining industry

On Friday, Australia imposed sanctions on two Russian oligarchs with links to its mining industry, with one of them connected with an investment to Rio Tinto’s Gladstone alumina refinery joint venture.

In a statement Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said, Canberra was working in closely with international partners to increase pressure on Russian oligarchs who were close to President Vladimir Putin.

“Australia has now added two billionaires with links to business interests in Australia, Oleg Deripaska and Viktor Vekselberg,” said Payne in a statement.

She went on to add, the “measures are in addition to curbs on 41 oligarchs and immediate family members who already face targeted financial sanctions and travel bans”.

Payne said, the government welcomed Australian companies taking a principled stand with moves to cut ties with Russia “in protest of Moscow’s illegal, indefensible war against Ukraine”.

Russia has termed the invasion of Ukraine as a “a special military operation” aimed at stopping the Ukrainian government from committing “genocide” by neo-Nazis in the Donbass region of Ukraine.

Vekselberg is an investor in the Russian energy sector, who has interests in a company working with Origin Energy on a gas project in the Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory.

Origin said it was seeking clarification on the sanctions from the Australian government, and told Reuters the Beetaloo Basin project was not a producing asset and had no earnings.

“Origin reiterates that it is appalled by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and will comply with all Australian rules and laws,” said Origin while adding, “Neither Lamesa Holdings nor Mr Vekselberg are a party to the Beetaloo Basin joint venture. They have no role in, involvement or dealings with, Origin or the Beetaloo Basin joint venture”.

Rio Tinto did not immediately respond to requests for comments.

Previously the company had said it was cutting ties with Rusal as part of its overall withdrawal from Russia.

Queensland Alumina Ltd did not respond to requests for comments.

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