A “pro-Russian” YouTube vlogger criticised by Boris Johnson for interviewing a British prisoner of war in Ukraine has been sanctioned by the UK Government for promoting actions aimed at “destabilising” the country.
Graham Phillips, who grew up in Perth, has become the first UK citizen placed on a register alongside the former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and figures connected to terrorist organisations including Islamic State.
The 43-year-old, a graduate of the University of Dundee, relocated to the Donbas region earlier this year after initially espousing pro-Kremlin views during the Russian state’s invasion of Crimea in 2014.
A foreign office sanction notice describes him 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”.
Mr Phillips, originally from Nottingham, accused the foreign office of “persecution,” adding he had been given “no opportunity” to defend himself.
His channel features a range of “on the ground reportage” with a pro-Putin stance – though he has constantly maintained his work is “independent”.
Mr Phillips has been awarded medals by branches of the Russian security forces and the head of the “self-proclaimed” Luhansk people’s republic.
He courted controversy earlier this year when a sit-down interview with Aiden Aslin – a British man who went to the country to fight on the Ukrainian side before being captured by Russian forces – was uploaded to the website.
It received widespread condemnation from Johnson and a number of human rights groups over “coercive” questioning and the description of Mr Aslin as a “prisoner of war”.
The former civil servant, who has more than 300,000 subscribers on the platform, reportedly relocated to the country in 2010 – a year after attending an England football match in Dnipropetrovsk, according to The Courier.
His former blog – Brit in Ukraine – previously focused on politics and sex tourism, but pivoted to covering Russian advancement into the country a few years later.
He has also undertaken freelance work with Russian state broadcaster RT.
The sanctions list also includes Asqa Mahmood – the Glasgow-born recruiter for the Islamic State group – and a number of prominent oligarchs with ties to the Putin regime.
In a response issued to STV News, Mr Phillips said: “I didn’t have any opportunity to defend myself, no one notified me, there are no real charges against me.
“Anyone can like or not like my work, that is personal choice, that is freedom of speech, but please can someone explain to me how a British person can be put on a British sanctions list without any opportunity to defend himself, or any actual charges against him, just because the UK Government don’t like his work?
“I note the persecution of the UK Government, and continue my work.”
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.”