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Blinken: US and EU need legal frameworks to seize Russian assets

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said legal studies are under way on how Russia’s assets abroad can be seized to help rebuild Ukraine.

In remarks at the University of Texas at Austin on Wednesday, Blinken left little doubt that Moscow’s international holdings were fair game given the snowballing costs of rebuilding Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

“My own view is you broke it, you bought it. And so the Russians having broken it, they ought to pay for it. And one way to do that would be through the use of these assets,” Blinken said.

“It’s about $300 billion, and most of it actually in Europe, not in the United States,” he continued. “So we’re looking at what legal authorities we may have, the Europeans may have, to actually use those assets for Ukraine … We have to make sure that there is a legal basis to do that. And as I said, since most of the assets are in Europe, Europeans also have to be convinced that there’s a basis to do it.”

His remarks placing a heavy emphasis on the need for the West to seize Russian assets will attract even more attention as fears grow in Kyiv and Europe that political chaos in Washington will sap America’s own financial support for the defense of Ukraine.

This week, a small number of radical members of the Republican Party pushed to oust U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, accusing him of conspiring with Democrats over a vote to ensure continued aid to Ukraine. Democrats also voted for his ouster.

While Blinken hails from the camp that supports the continuation of support to Ukraine and thinks the U.S. can keep it up, he admits that Putin believes he can successfully play for time now in a war of attrition.

“One of the things that we think President Putin believes is that he can outlast us; he can outlast the Ukrainians; he can outlast the support that Ukraine is getting. And it’s very important that we disabuse him of that notion, because that’s actually the quickest path to having this resolved, having an end to the aggression, having a just and durable peace. No one wants that more than the Ukrainian people. They’re the ones on the receiving end of aggression,” Blinken said.

Ukraine has been urging partners to pass over frozen Russian assets since the start of the full-scale invasion, which has already caused more than $150 billion worth of damage to Ukraine’s economy, the Kyiv School of Economics has reported.

However, as Ukraine’s justice ministry said, there are numerous legal hurdles that EU countries have to overcome to be able to actually do it directly.

At home, Ukraine has already confiscated a big chunk of Russian wealth and corporate assets stored in the country. Overall, since the start of the full-scale invasion Ukraine has seized more than $5 billion worth of Russian assets, the Security Service of Ukraine reported in August.

During a recent meeting of EU foreign ministers in Kyiv, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged the EU to increase its efforts to find legal ways to pass Russian assets to Ukraine. He said this would not only force the aggressor to pay but also ease the burden on the EU which has now to cover the financial needs of Ukraine, caused by the Kremlin’s invasion.

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