EU officials plan to funnel funds from seized Russian assets to Ukraine
Closely working with the US, the EU plans to channel all the funds seized from Russian assets to Ukraine.
European officials have seized billions of euros in Russian property and assets in recent weeks, and if US and EU officials are to be believed, more is on the way.
In Italy, officials have seized assets worth €780 million ($862 million) in the last two weeks. According to Dutch Central Bank Manager Klaas Knot, €194 million in the last week alone. And now, amid the rush for Russian cash, EU officials are attempting to channel the funds into a so-called "war reparations fund" for Ukraine's struggling regime, according to a Bloomberg story.
The EU has been working closely with the US in the face of widespread mainstream western condemnation of Russia's ongoing special military operation aimed at demilitarizing and de-nazifying Ukraine, which was prompted by near-constant attacks on Russian-speaking communities in eastern Ukraine, which have killed well over 14,000 people since 2014.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Wednesday the formation of a "task force" to "seize and freeze" assets belonging to "REPO," or "Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs."
Pressure campaign against Russia
The measures are part of an ongoing economic pressure campaign on Russian individuals, primarily by NATO-aligned nations. Official announcements portrayed the move as an initiative to "identify, constrain, freeze, seize, and, where appropriate, confiscate or forfeit" the assets of Russians suspected of having ties to the Russian government.
Only a day later, the EU declared a "Freeze and Seize" operation to collaborate with the US and coordinate Western cooperation. The so-called "task forces" are said to work alongside a previously disclosed US Justice Department-led program called "KleptoCapture," which aims to seize finances and assets from persons deemed "Putin affiliates" by Western governments.
Russian assets seized, auctioned off
On Tuesday, US Senators introduced legislation that would allow wealthy Russians' assets to be seized and auctioned off, with the proceeds aiding the Ukrainian regime as well. According to Forbes, the "Asset Seizure for Ukraine Reconstruction Act" would allow the US government to seize and sell assets worth more than $2 million from not only Russians sanctioned by the US but also "foreigners related to the Russian government."
While the legislation currently stipulates the proceeds from the sale of such ill-gotten goods would be used "only for the benefit of the people of Ukraine," Forbes notes this category would include “military assistance.”
By all indications, Kiev needs it, amid what Forbes described as “growing concern about Ukraine’s ability to sustain its military operations and provide services to its citizens.”
"European Council President Charles Michel said Friday, on Twitter, that after a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, he was looking to create a “Ukraine Solidarity Fund” which would “serve as the backbone for the reconstruction of a free and democratic #Ukraine.”
How would the operation influence the situation?
However, given the current state of the operation, it's questionable whether such funding will have much of an influence on the current balance of forces.
"You cannot just walk up and grab somebody's yacht. You have to walk through the facts that link the property to a crime," federal prosecutor and KleptoCapture task force chief Andrew Adams told MSNBC in an interview this week. "You have to be able to describe not only what crime was committed with a degree of probable cause, but you have to trace the property to the condition of the crime."
According to the US government-funded news station VOA News, "investigations" into accused offenders "may stretch on for months or years."