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25 Feb, 2024 07:54

West should be ‘bolder’ in seizing Russian assets – British PM

Many European countries have been reluctant to tap the reserves themselves, opting instead for the interest earned on them
West should be ‘bolder’ in seizing Russian assets – British PM

Ukraine’s Western backers should step up efforts to confiscate Russian assets frozen abroad in order to aid Kiev, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said.

In an article for the Sunday Times marking the two-year anniversary of the start of the Ukraine conflict, Sunak warned that Russia “continues to pose the greatest threat to global security.”

“We must be bolder in hitting the Russian war economy. Our collective sanctions have deprived Russia of $400 billion for their war effort – enough to finance the invasion for another four years… And we must be bolder in seizing the hundreds of billions of frozen Russian assets,” the prime minister stated.

He explained that, in his opinion, tapping “the billions in interest these assets are collecting and sending it to Ukraine” should only be the first step in taking over these funds, and urged Kiev’s Western supporters to go further and “find lawful ways to seize the assets themselves and get those funds to Ukraine too.”

The West has frozen roughly $300 billion in assets belonging to the Russian central bank since the start of the Ukraine conflict. The UK and US have recently demanded the outright seizure of these funds in order to fund the government in Kiev, while the EU has been more cautious, opting instead for a plan to seize the interest earned from the funds held at the clearinghouse Euroclear. Many European countries have warned that an outright confiscation of the funds would reflect badly on the Western financial system and erode trust in the euro.

The EU has frozen an estimated €196.6 billion ($211 billion) worth of Russian central bank reserves, and generated nearly €4.4 billion in income on these funds. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced earlier this week that the legal framework for the confiscation of this income is nearly ready.

The West has also frozen billions of dollars in funds belonging to sanctioned Russian individuals and companies.

Moscow has repeatedly challenged the legitimacy of the asset freezes, slamming the practice as “thievery” and warning of countermeasures should the West move to confiscate the funds.

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