Russian assets that have been frozen in the EU as part of sanctions against Moscow over the conflict with Kiev should be seized and allocated for the reconstruction of Ukraine, European Council President Charles Michel said on Thursday.
“I’m absolutely convinced that this is extremely important not only to freeze assets, but also to make it possible to confiscate them, to make them available for rebuilding the country. I’m personally convinced,” Michel insisted in an interview with Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
He revealed that he had already told the Council’s legal service to come up with “some possible ideas in order to find a legal solution in line with the principles of the rule of law, that would facilitate and make possible the confiscation of the assets of the people who are sanctioned by the EU or by other countries in the world.”
Acting in such a manner should be “a question of fairness, a question of justice” for Brussels, he added.
However, Michel acknowledged that implementing his plan on a “legal level is not so simple.”
“There are 27 legal systems across the EU and, in many EU member states, this needs a decision taken by a court in order to make it possible. It takes time, it’s a difficult and long process,” he explained.
The European Council president’s ideas echoed those previously voiced by Washington. In late April, the White House presented a set of “comprehensive proposals” aimed at supposedly holding Russian “oligarchs” accountable for the events in Ukraine.
The proposals included “establishing a streamlined administrative authority” that would be able to confiscate sanctioned assets and transfer them to Kiev to “remediate harms of the Russian aggression.”
Moscow decried those American plans as “nothing but simple expropriation of private property that [the US] seeks to falsely justify.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it would become “a very dangerous precedent,” showing “just how fragile all the universally accepted foundations have become” in the field of private property rights, economics and politics.
The US, EU and some other countries have slapped several rounds of unprecedented economic sanctions on Moscow over its ongoing military operation in Ukraine. Foreign assets of the Russian Central Bank and various other entities and businessmen have been frozen, Russia was effectively cut off from the dollar- and euro-dominated money markets, and a wide array of foreign businesses have stopped dealing with the country.
Russia attacked its neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.