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FT: US senators to propose bill to seize and transfer Russian assets to Ukraine

by Martin Fornusek June 15, 2023 6:48 PM 2 min read
A woman walks by destroyed buildings 20 miles west from the front lines of fighting on Jan. 20, 2023 in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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U.S. senators with bipartisan backing are reportedly planning to propose a bill that would allow President Joe Biden to seize and transfer Russian sovereign assets to Ukraine, the Financial Times (FT) reported on June 15.

Western countries have frozen around $300 billion of Russia's Central Bank assets since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The bill's proponents argue that since Russia bears the blame for the destruction and war crimes in Ukraine, it should also bear the financial costs of reparations. They also likely aim to alleviate the burden of Ukraine's support from U.S. taxpayers and allies.

"Given Russia's brutality and continued war crimes against the Ukrainian people, it is only right that Russian government funds in the United States be seized and repurposed to help Ukraine win the war and rebuild its country," said the Republican Senator Jim Risch, who is filing the bill.

The Biden administration has not yet taken a clear position on the issue.

Critics have pointed out the legal pitfalls of this move, as sovereign assets are covered by "sovereign immunity" – an understanding that one state will not seize another's property.

Seizing and transferring Russian sovereign assets could encourage the same response from Moscow and set a dangerous precedent in foreign policy around the world.

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to Biden on May 23, urging him to send the seized assets to Ukraine.

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The European Union, in turn, considers sending the money generated through financial operations with the frozen assets to Kyiv, rather than the assets themselves.

The Kyiv School of Economics reported in late March that Russia's war against Ukraine had caused over $138 billion in damages across the country, including an estimated $36.2 billion in damages to infrastructure.

According to U.S. lawmakers, the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine can cost up to $411 billion.

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