‘Theft’ of foreign assets becoming ‘habit’ for West – Lavrov
Seizing Russia’s foreign-exchange reserves would be nothing short of “theft,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday. Such an idea was recently floated by the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell.
“It seems fair to say that this is a theft they [the Western nations] do not even try to conceal,” the Russian foreign minister told journalists at a press conference during a visit to Algeria.
In a recent interview with FT, Borrell suggested seizing Russia's frozen reserves and using them to cover the costs of rebuilding Ukraine once the conflict is over.
Such actions “become a sort of a habit for the West,” he added, pointing to the fact that the US had frozen funds “belonging to Afghanistan, the Afghan Central Bank.” Washington has no plans to spend them on the needs of the Afghan people “that have suffered the consequences of the 20-year-long NATO presence” on their soil, Lavrov said.
When Borrell himself unveiled the idea on Monday, he also referred to US President Joe Biden’s decision to set aside billions worth of the assets of Afghanistan’s central bank, adding, however, that they would be “used to benefit the Afghan people.”
The Russian minister also questioned Borrell’s role by saying that “we might soon see the position of the EU top diplomat gone for good since the European Union no longer has its own foreign policy and simply acts in line with whatever approaches are imposed by the US.”
Moscow would continue to oppose America’s attempts to “erode the principles the UN was based on” and to create a unipolar world order, the minister added.
Russia’s top diplomat also criticized Borrell for what he described as overstepping his bounds. Apart from suggesting the “idea of confiscating foreign assets,” the EU official previously said that the Ukrainian crisis “should be resolved through military means,” Lavrov said, referring to an April statement by Borrell that “this war will be won on the battlefield,” while speaking about Russia’s operation in Ukraine.
Borrell “might as well remember… he is the chief diplomat and not the military leader of the European Union,” the Russian foreign minister has said.
Moscow had already criticized Borrell’s asset seizure suggestion. On Monday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko called it an act of “complete lawlessness” that would harm international relations.
Following the start of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, Western nations froze around half of Russia’s international reserves, around $300 billion.
Russia attacked its neighboring state following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join NATO. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.