'Gold-bricked' homes of Russian oligarchs 'should be used to house Ukrainian refugees', says mayor

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the "gold-bricked" London homes of Russian oligarchs should be used to house Ukrainian refugees instead of just "gathering dust".

Mr Khan, who has been critical of the UK's response to the refugee crisis, said the move would be a form of "poetic justice".

"For some time I've been complaining about the number of homes in our city owned by Russian oligarchs close to Putin that have stood empty gathering dust at a time when we have a housing crisis," Sadiq Khan told ITV News London. "I think the government should be seizing these properties and they should in the interim allow them to be used by those Ukrainians fleeing Ukraine before they are sold off. "This would be a form of poetic justice but also make good use of these homes.

"Homes should be places where people live particularly those fleeing persecution rather than gold bricks used by oligarchs close to Putin," he explained.

Communities Secretary Michael Gove is due to set out later the details of a new programme through which people in the UK can offer to host Ukrainian refugees in their homes.

Families will receive a thank you payment of £350 a month and be expected to commit to a minimum of six months of housing an individual or a group.

Asked if he would be willing to host a refugee, Mr Khan told Good Morning Britain: "Personally we won’t be able to because of space and other security issues, but I admire the generosity of those Londoners, and we know our city is a very generous city."

He said the visa system must be simplified as it is "far too complicated for those from Ukraine to come to London, and our country".

Sadiq Khan's comments came as squatters broke into a central London mansion apparently owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and declared it "belongs to Ukrainian refugees".

At least five people have been occupying the property in Belgrave Square since early Monday morning.

Mr Deripaska, an industrialist who has had close links with the British political establishment, was targeted with sanctions by the Government last week.

He was described as “a prominent Russian businessman and pro-Kremlin oligarch”, who is closely associated” with both the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin.