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13 Feb, 2024 11:13

West would be seen as ‘thieves’ if Russian assets seized – Moscow

Russia’s response would be “extremely harsh,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has warned
West would be seen as ‘thieves’ if Russian assets seized – Moscow

Russia would consider Western nations “thieves” and would respond with “very harsh” countermeasures should its frozen assets be confiscated, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has warned. Her comments came after the European Council took steps for the potential seizure of interest earned on Moscow’s frozen sovereign funds.

Western countries have blocked an estimated $300 billion in assets belonging to the Russian central bank since the start of Moscow’s military campaign against Ukraine in February 2022. Of that amount, €196.6 billion ($211 billion) is being held by the Belgium-based clearing house Euroclear, which last year earned nearly €4.4 billion worth of interest on the funds.

While there have been calls to confiscate the money outright and transfer it to Ukraine, skeptics have warned that this could erode global trust in the EU’s banking sector, with such drastic measures being far from watertight legally.

Speaking on Tuesday, Zakharova declared that the confiscation of Russian funds would be “theft,” adding that “this is the appropriation of what you don’t own.” The diplomat claimed that the West has already begun tempering its appetite and calculating the potential impact of Russian countermeasures, after it “realized that our response would be extremely harsh.”

Zakharova concluded by warning that Moscow would consider Western states to be “thieves” and would treat them accordingly should they seize its sovereign funds.

Over the weekend, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused Brussels of attempting to “create the illusion of legitimacy over attacks on our property and thereby camouflage what is in fact an outright theft.”

The European Council ordered on Monday that “extraordinary cash balances accumulating due to EU restrictive measures” be kept in separate accounts, with depositors holding frozen Russian assets prohibited from disposing of any interest or profits from the funds.

“This decision paves the way for the Council to decide on a possible establishment of a financial contribution to the EU budget raised on these net profits to support Ukraine and its recovery and reconstruction at a later stage,” officials in Brussels clarified in a statement.

The US State Department was quick to applaud the decision, while spokesperson Matthew Miller revealed that Washington continues to be “in active conversations with our allies and partners, including the G7” on potential ways to seize Russian assets.

Earlier this month, EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni acknowledged that Brussels is treading carefully on the issue. He noted that the bloc had overcome a Hungarian veto on a new aid package to Ukraine, meaning that the EU no longer had to address the issue of frozen Russian funds “in a rushed way.”

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