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UK and France in war of words over Russia

The U.K. is facing criticism and accusations of hypocrisy for attacking neighboring France for sticking to a deal to supply Russia with warships while its own companies were sending military supplies to Moscow and its financial industry attracts the country's mega-rich oligarchs.

Since the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, the U.K government and Prime Minister David Cameron has been urging the rest of Europe to get tough with Russia, which is believed to a have provided the means for the aircraft to be shot down.

This pressure came to a head at Tuesday's European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, which failed to come up with any concrete measures or sanctions.

Dominique Faget | AFP | Getty Images

France has come under attack from Cameron for allowing company Mistral to follow through with a 1.1 billion euro ($1.5 billion) contract to supply warships to Russia – although France has said that it could cancel the second of two ships if the situation worsens

However, it has emerged that in the U.K., of the 285 current licences to companies to export arms to Russia or other countries which may supply her, only 34 have been suspended or revoked since Foreign Secretary William Hague pledged to end the export of arms "destined for units of the Russian armed forces or other state agencies which could be or are being deployed against Ukraine" in March.

Meanwhile, London's role as center for the world's financial services industry has attracted a large number of Russian oligarchs. As well as setting up home in the city -- thereby contributing to the capital's spiraling housing market -- Russian companies have listed some of their companies in London.

Laurent Fabius, France's foreign minister, on Tuesday said the English were being "cute" in an interview on French TV after meeting his EU counterparts to discuss further sanctions against Russia. A series of further measures could be announced as soon as Thursday.

"I said to our dear British friends: 'Let's talk about the financial sector. I am led to believe there are a fair few Russian oligarchs in London,' he said.


"Russia is an authoritarian regime. We should have been applying a more cautious approach for some time in regard to Russia," Sir John Stanley, head of the U.K.'s committee on arms exports control, said in a statement.

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