British YouTuber sanctioned by UK for spreading lies about Russia's invasion of Ukraine

·3 min read
Pro-Kremlin YouTuber Graham Philipps is the first Briton to be added to the sanctions list. (Graham Phillips)
Pro-Kremlin YouTuber Graham Philipps is the first Briton to be added to the sanctions list. (Graham Phillips)

The UK has sanctioned a British video blogger after he was accused of spreading disinformation about Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Pro-Kremlin YouTuber Graham Philipps is the first Briton to be added to the sanctions list since the beginning of the war on 24 February and faces having his assets frozen.

The UK accused him of producing and publishing “media content that supports and promotes actions and policies which destabilise Ukraine.”

In April, an MP accused Phillips of potentially breaching the Geneva Convention over his interview with a British prisoner of war taken captive during the Ukraine conflict.

Read more: How Himars could force Russia into an embarrassing collapse in Ukraine

British citizen Aiden Aslin stands behind bars in a courtroom in Donetsk, in the territory which is under the control of the pro-Russian Government of the Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine, Thursday, June 9, 2022. Aslin is one of two British citizens and a Moroccan national who were sentenced to death by pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine for fighting on Ukraine's side. The three men fought alongside Ukrainian troops and surrendered to Russian forces weeks prior. (AP Photo)
British citizen Aiden Aslin stands behind bars in a courtroom in Donetsk. (AP)

He interviewed Aiden Aslin, originally from Newark-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire, who surrendered to Russian forces after fighting in the besieged city of Mariupol and was later sentenced to death.

During the 45-minute video recorded in Donetsk, Phillips repeatedly called him a "mercenary", rather than an official combatant, and told him the crime is punishable by death in the region.

He also asksed Aslin to confirm he was speaking of his own free will, while being held by the Russians and handcuffed.

In the introduction to the interview, Phillips said he was not breaching the Geneva Convention as Aslin was a "mercenary" and so prisoner of war (POW) status did not apply.

However, he claimed that as they were "nice, polite people", he would abide by the rules of the convention.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Aslin's local MP, Robert Jenrick, said Phillips was "in danger of prosecution of war crimes" over posting the video, and had in fact breached the convention.

Boris Johnson described the interview as a Russian “propaganda message”.

Watch: Close friend of Aiden Aslin reacts to sentence

Phillips was among 42 new people added to the sanctions list, which included Sarvar and Sanjar Ismailov, nephews of major Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov who has close ties to the Kremlin.

The sanctions listing described Phillips as “a video blogger who has produced and published media content that supports and promotes actions and policies which destabilise Ukraine and undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty, or independence of Ukraine.”

He first visited Ukraine as an England football fan and later quit his job to move their full-time, according to an interview he did with Buzzfeed in 2014.

Read more: The ‘most-hunted weapon in all of Ukraine’: How HIMARS stalled Russia’s brutal advance

After reinventing himself as a journalist, he worked as a freelancer for the Kremlin-backed RT news channel following Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea, the Guardian reported.

He gained further notoriety after being detained by the Ukrainian authorities at a checkpoint close to Mariupol and later released without charge.

Moscow’s justice minister Konstantin Chuychenko and his deputy Oleg Sviridenko were also hit with a travel ban and asset freezes, with the UK accusing them of targeting critics speaking out against the war.

Other people sanctioned included Vitaliy Khotsenko who was appointed as prime minister of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Vladislav Kuznetsov - the first deputy chairman of the Luhansk People’s Republic.

Foreign secretary Liz Truss, said: “We will not keep quiet and watch Kremlin-appointed state actors suppress the people of Ukraine or the freedoms of their own people. We will continue to impose harsh sanctions on those who are trying to legitimise Putin’s illegal invasion until Ukraine prevails.”

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