Brussels (The Times Groupe)- The European countries Lithuania, Slovakia, Latvia and Estonia will call on Tuesday for Russian assets frozen by the European Union to be confiscated to fund the rebuilding of Ukraine after Russia’s invasion, it was revealed in a joint letter on Monday.
It was estimated by Ukraine on May 3 that $600 billion would be needed to rebuild the country after the destruction wrought by Russia. In the midst of a war, the sum is likely to have risen sharply, according to the letter.
“Russia must cover a substantial portion of the costs of rebuilding Ukraine, which includes the compensation for victims of Russian aggression,” states the letter, which will be presented to EU finance ministers on Tuesday.
The letter, seen by Reuters, also urges the 27-nation bloc to prepare new sanctions against Moscow.
“If Russia does not cease its military aggression against Ukraine, there should be no economic ties between the EU and Russia – ensuring that none of our financial resources, products or services contribute to Russia’s war machine,” it said.
According to the four countries, the EU and like-minded nations have already frozen assets belonging to Russian individuals and entities and approximately $300 billion of central bank reserves.
“Now is the time to seek out legal ways to maximize the use of these resources as a source of funding – for both Ukraine’s efforts to withstand Russian aggression, and for post-war reconstruction of the country,” they said.
“A confiscation of state assets, such as central bank reserves or state-owned enterprises, has a direct bearing on this.”
Thus far, some 30 billion euros worth of assets of Russian and Belarussian oligarchs and entities have been frozen by the EU.
Last Wednesday, the European Commission said it could check whether it was possible to seize frozen Russian assets for the purpose of financing Ukraine under national and EU laws, but didn’t mention central bank reserves.
“Freezing assets is different from seizing them,” said Commission spokesman Christian Wigand. “In most member states, this is not possible, and a criminal conviction is necessary to confiscate assets. Private entities and central bank assets are not legal equivalents,” he said.
Earlier this week, he said the Commission would present a proposal to make violations of restrictive measures a crime in the EU as well as a proposal to revise and strengthen current EU rules on confiscation, as well as to strengthen the asset recovery and confiscation system.
“Where legal ways to seize the assets cannot be identified, they should be used as leverage and released once Russia has compensated Ukraine for all damages,” the four countries said.
It calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” that it says isn’t meant to occupy territory, but rather to destroy its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and capture “dangerous nationalists”.