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Nicola Sturgeon to review payments to Perthshire estate owned by Kremlin associate

Nicola Sturgeon says she will ensure a review is carried out into almost £700,000 of public funds being paid to a Perthshire estate owned by a known Kremlin associate.

Between 2016 and 2019 Vladimir Lisin, one of the richest men in Russia, received £682,896 in agricultural subsidies for his 3,000-acre Aberuchill Estate near Comrie.

Mr Lisin has been on the US Treasury’s Putin list of known Kremlin associates since 2018.

On Thursday, The first minister promised to carry out a review to ensure no member of the Russian elite, or any Kremlin associate, is in receipt of public money, including Mr Lisin.

Lisin one of the richest in the world

Mr Lisin started out as an electrical fitter in a coal mine in Siberia, before becoming a steelworker in Central Russia.

He then managed factories for Trans-World Group and got the majority stake in the Novolipetsk steel mill in 2000.

Mr Lisin is now chairman of the NLMK Group, a leading manufacturer of steel products, and owns railway operator First Cargo and some ports and shipping companies.

According to Forbes he is worth $23.4 billion, although his net worth has fallen by $427 million in 24 hours, as of March 3.

He is the 59th richest billionaire in the world and the third richest Russian.

This makes his net worth $11 billion more than Roman Abramovich.

Mr Lisin bought Aberuchill Estate in 2005 for £6.8m.

The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs records show Aberuchill Management Limited recouped £682,896 in agricultural subsidies.

Previously, the estate said the agricultural support payments helped to maintain jobs and support local employment.

Sturgeon agrees to review

Green MSP Ross Greer highlighted the case of Mr Lisin’s Perthshire estate at First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood, calling for an urgent review following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

In response, Ms Sturgeon said: “Yes, I will ensure that review happens.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

“I can advise parliament I have sought urgent advice on the maximum possible action the Scottish Government can take within our powers against individuals and entities identifying as having a close link to the Russian regime, whether or not they are currently on the UK’s sanctions list.

“The options being examined include, but are not limited to, ending support from the public purse and freezing or seizing assets in Scotland, where that is possible.

“I will of course keep parliament fully updated.”

Speaking afterwards, Mr Greer said: “It is vital that Scotland plays our part in the international sanctions effort aimed at the Kremlin following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I am extremely grateful to the first minister, who has agreed to the Greens call for an immediate review of Scotland’s agricultural payments system and all other relevant schemes to ensure that no Russian oligarch or Kremlin associate receives a penny of public money here.

“Standing with the people of Ukraine must mean putting maximum pressure on Putin’s cronies, wherever in the world they operate.”

Businesses urged to cut ties

Ms Sturgeon also urged businesses in Scotland to cut any and all ties with Russia, “however indirect”.

Speaking in Holyrood she said: “We would encourage [businesses] beyond direct investments – which we would hope businesses would divest themselves of – review their operations and links to Russia, however indirect, and sever those links.

“I can tell the parliament the Scottish Government and economic agencies will not support trade and investment activity with Russia.

“We will of course support businesses as they adapt to remove any and all links with Russia.”

Open letter on Russian business links

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has also written an open letter to Scottish businesses to reiterate the first minister’s call for them to stop trading with Russia.

In her letter she says the Scottish Government “fully supports” the UK Government’s sanctions against Russia, but adds they will still have an impact on Scotland’s economy.

She said: “We know that everyone wants to do the right thing here.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes

“Many businesses, sporting and cultural organisations have shown commendable corporate values and leadership, in divesting their interests in Russia, their trading relationships with Russian entities and their participation in lucrative Russian contracts.

“We support these decisions and would encourage all Scottish businesses to follow their example.

“Beyond direct investments, reviewing operations for links and connections to Russia – however indirect – and then severing them is the right decision.

“I welcome the effort being undertaken right now by businesses across Scotland to do exactly that, and encourage them to continue to conduct this work at pace, and with due regard for the safety of any employees or individuals you may work with.”