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US Treasury Secretary urges world leaders to transfer frozen Russian assets to Ukraine

by Abbey Fenbert and The Kyiv Independent news desk February 28, 2024 5:57 AM 2 min read
Janet Yellen, U.S. Treasury Secretary, speaks at a Multilateral Development Bank roundtable during the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Group in Washington, DC, on April 12, 2023. (Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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Unlocking frozen Russian Central Bank assets and diverting those funds to aid Ukraine is "necessary and urgent," U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told global finance leaders at the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Feb. 27.

Western countries and other partners immobilized around $300 billion of the Russian Central Bank's assets at the beginning of the full-scale invasion.

"It is necessary and urgent for our coalition to find a way to unlock the value of these immobilized assets to support Ukraine’s continued resistance and long-term reconstruction," Yellen said, in her strongest public support of the move thus far.

Debates over the legality of channeling these funds into Ukraine's reconstruction have prevented allies from transferring the money, but ongoing delays in U.S. military aid have prompted heightened urgency.

"I believe there is a strong international law, economic, and moral case for moving forward," Yellen said.

Ten international legal experts recently signed a letter echoing Yellen's sentiments, arguing that the seizure of frozen Russian central bank assets to aid Ukraine would be lawful given Russia's "ongoing breach of the most fundamental rules of international law."

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a bill on Jan. 25 that would allow Washington to confiscate and transfer frozen Russian assets. The White House is reportedly behind the bill, which could potentially provide a novel solution to the current funding impasse in Congress.

Yellen also addressed the concern that the asset seizure would weaken the U.S. dollar on the global market, saying it was "extremely unlikely."

"Realistically there are not alternatives to the dollar, euro, and yen," she said.

The European Union on Feb. 12 announced a new set of measures targeting profits from frozen assets belonging to the Russian Central Bank. Yellen said the EU's move is "an action I fully endorse."

According to the World Bank, the estimated cost of Ukraine's post-war recovery and reconstruction is $486 billion.

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