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‘Not easy’ to seize Russia assets: EU

March 25, 2023

STOCKHOLM: EU plans to seize Russian assets following Moscow´s invasion of Ukraine, prioritising state assets of around $350 billion, are unprecedented and tricky, the EU task force head told AFP on Friday.

“Nothing is simple” when it comes to finding the massive sums intended to be diverted to pay for Ukraine´s reconstruction, Swedish career diplomat Anders Ahnlid said in an interview in Stockholm.

But Europe plans to be “innovative”, he said. From oligarchs´ yachts to the Russian central bank´s foreign reserves, there is a mountain of wealth to be had, but seizing it in a legal manner is easier said than done.

“It is a challenge to find legal means that are acceptable,” Ahnlid said, a week after the EU working group´s first meeting. Many Russian citizens targeted by sanctions have contested them in court.

In one high-profile case, the EU General Court in early March issued an interim order suspending part of the sanctions against Russian Formula One racing driver Nikita Mazepin. He is the son of the owner and chief executive of chemical products manufacturer Uralchem. That “just shows that our European Union is a union built on the rule of law,” Ahnlid said.

This is the first time the EU plans to not only freeze assets but also seize them and redistribute the capital -- or at least the interest. Precedents are rare even at the global level, apart from Iraqi assets seized by the United States at the end of Saddam Hussein´s regime, Ahnlid said. Appointed last month, Ahnlid would not be drawn on when Kyiv could see its first cheque made up from Russian funds.