US President Joe Biden proposed Thursday to use assets seized from Russian oligarchs to compensate Ukraine for damage caused by Moscow’s invasion of the country.
This would enable “transfer of the proceeds of forfeited kleptocratic property to Ukraine to remediate harms of Russian aggression,” the White House said in a statement.
The compensation idea is part of new proposed rules ratcheting up economic punishment on the Kremlin, two months after it invaded its neighbor in an attempt to topple the government and seize territory.
President Joe Biden was to announce the proposed legislation alongside his request to increase funding by Congress for Ukraine’s military later Thursday.
Already Washington has provided more than $3 billion worth of weaponry to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion was launched on February 24. Now the White House is eyeing a fund sufficient to last through to October.
In parallel with the military build-up — which began cautiously with mostly defensive infantry weapons, but now includes heavy artillery and tank-killing drones — Washington is leading a Western sanctions onslaught designed to isolate Russia and pressure the country’s elite.
To date, European Union allies have frozen more than $30 billion in Russian assets, including almost $7 billion in luxury goods belonging to oligarchs, including yachts, art, real estate and helicopters, the White House said.
The United States has “sanctioned and blocked vessels and aircraft worth over $1 billion, as well as frozen hundreds of millions of dollars of assets belonging to Russian elites in US accounts.”
This month, Spain acted on a US request to seize the $90 million superyacht belonging to Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, an ally of President Vladimir Putin.
The legislative package being proposed by Biden would also tighten the legal squeeze on oligarchs, who have years of practice at moving and disguising assets.
One proposal is to allow seizing of property used evade sanctions. Another is to expand the arsenal used by US prosecutors, doubling the amount of time they are allowed to pursue money laundering investigations from five to 10 years, and applying anti-racketeering laws used to tackle organized crime to sanctions evasion.
Biden was to “deliver remarks on support for Ukrainians defending their country and their freedom against Russia’s brutal war” at 10:45 am (1445 GMT), the White House press office said.