One of Russia’s most popular television news presenters, who has been accused of being a propagandist for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has British citizenship and a family flat in west London.
Sergei Brilev has been reporting on the war in Ukraine on the state-controlled Rossiya 1, which tightly follows the Kremlin’s messaging. The channel describes the war as a “special military operation” launched to protect Ukrainian citizens from “abuse and genocide”.
British government ministers are coming under pressure to impose sanctions on Brilev. The Labour MP Stephen Kinnock asked in parliament for the Home Office to “take steps to strip [him] of his British citizenship, ban him from the UK and freeze his UK assets”. The Home Office said last week it would not comment on individual cases.
Kinnock said: “It seems to me there is clear evidence that Sergei Brilev is a propagandist for the Kremlin and plays an important role in supporting Putin’s barbaric war in Ukraine.
“The British government must conduct a full and thorough investigation into Mr Brilev in order to judge whether he should be sanctioned. Given the information I have seen, it seems the case is clear that he should be targeted for sanctions.”
Other Russian television anchors have already faced sanctions by the EU over the state-backed disinformation about the Ukraine invasion.
Stephen Kinnock: ‘Given the information I have seen, it seems the case is clear that Brilev should be targeted for sanctions.’ Photograph: Amer Ghazzal/Rex Shutterstock
Olga Skabeyeva, 37, a talkshow host on Rossiya 1, was put under sanction by the EU last month, accused of spreading “anti-Ukrainian propaganda”. Another presenter on the channel, Vladimir Solovyov, 58, has also been the target of EU sanctions. It has been reported that two villas owned by him at Lake Como in Italy, worth €8m (£6.7m), have been sequestered by the authorities.
Brilev is one of Russia’s best-known broadcasters. He was the official co-commentator for Putin’s presidential inauguration in 2018, when he was accused of failing to report on protests and detentions relating to the ceremony. He is also a member of the Russian international affairs council, co-founded by the Russian ministry of foreign affairs and presided over by the minister of foreign affairs, Sergei Lavrov.
Brilev worked in London as a correspondent from 1996 to 2001. His interviewees have included Putin, Barack Obama and David Cameron.
An investigation by the now jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in November 2018 revealed he was on the electoral roll in Britain and his wife owned a flat in Chiswick, west London, bought for £700,000 in March 2016.
The presenter confirmed the claims on Facebook, writing: “My first British residence permit and second citizenship is a fact my employers know very well …
“As for property in London, it was purchased through funds whose sources are transparent and well known to the relevant financial and tax authorities.”
Land Registry records examined by the Observer last week revealed that Brilev’s wife, Irina, still owns the property. She is also a shareholder in the management company for the block in Chiswick.
Many western journalists have been forced to pull out of Russia because of a new law passed earlier this month carrying jail terms of up to 15 years for spreading “fake news”. Rossiya 1 has mainly broadcast the Kremlin’s view of the Ukraine conflict, reporting that the “special operation” has been going as planned.
Brilev did not respond to a request for comment.