Russia ban shows sanctions are working, Sir Malcolm Rifkind says

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image captionSir Malcolm Rifkind was foreign secretary from 1995 to 1997

Russia's decision to ban 89 European officials, politicians and military leaders shows sanctions against it are working, Sir Malcolm Rifkind has said.

The ex-UK foreign secretary and former Deputy PM Nick Clegg are among those barred from entering the country.

The EU has imposed sanctions on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine.

"It shows we are making an impact because they wouldn't have reacted unless they felt very sore at what had happened," he told BBC Radio 5 live.

"Once sanctions were extended, it's had a major impact on the Russian economy."

'Military might'

The EU, which initially imposed the sanctions after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region in March 2014 and has subsequently extended them, has called the ban "totally arbitrary and unjustified" and said no explanation had been provided.

A Russian foreign ministry official would not confirm the names of those banned but did say the ban was the result of the European Union's sanctions against the country.

British intelligence and military chiefs, including MI5 director general Andrew Parker, former MI6 chief Sir John Sawers and chief of the defence staff General Sir Nicholas Houghton are reportedly also on the list.

image captionFormer Tory MP Andrew Robathan said he was "surprised and flattered" to be on the list

Sir Malcolm said: "This has happened at a time when the oil price has collapsed and therefore a main source of revenue for Mr Putin [Russian president Vladimir] has disappeared.

"That's pretty important when it comes to his attempts to build up his military might and to force his neighbours to do what they're told.

"I understand that they would like the sanctions removed, I want them removed and want to see good relations with Russia.

"It's very important that Russia, Britain and western Europe as a whole work amicably together but we can't ignore the fact that for the first time since the end of the Second World War, part of the borders of a European territory has been violated by a military attack and that is unacceptable."

'Rather bizarre'

Sir Malcolm, who was Conservative foreign secretary between 1995 and 1997 when Sir John Major was in Downing Street, added: "If there had to be such a ban I am rather proud to be on it - I'd be rather miffed if I wasn't.

"But I've got no immediate plans to go to Russia and haven't had to change my diary, let's put it that way!"

Andrew Robathan, the former MP for South Leicestershire, said it was "rather bizarre" and "out of date" that he was also on the banned list.

Mr Robathan, a former defence minister who stood down as an MP at the general election, said he believed he had been put on the list following comments he made about Russia and Ukraine.

"I'm rather surprised, and in a sense rather flattered, to be on the list since I stood down from the House of Commons at the general election - and I haven't been a defence minister now for two years, so it may be slightly out of date.

"But it also might reflect that I have said one or two things in the House of Commons that were somewhat disobliging to President Putin and the way that Russia is behaving," he said.

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