Zelenskyy calls for strength to ‘potential aggressors’, confiscating Russia's assets
Photo via Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine press service

Russian assets frozen under sanctions can be used to meet Ukraine’s immediate financial needs, which would be a warning to potential aggressors, Ukraine’s president said on Wednesday.

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At a meeting of the ministerial round table on support for Ukraine in Washington, Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukraine urgently needs USD 14.1 billion for rapid recovery, adding that obligatory compensation would deter other potential aggressors.

"The world's potential aggressors are now looking: will you do the right thing? It is realistic to confiscate Russia’s assets, as well as assets of persons connected with the ruling elite of the evil state," Mr Zelenskyy said in his video address.

"To confiscate – and direct so that life in Ukraine can be restored. Russia must feel the full price of its aggression."

In late February, Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmyhal raised the issue of confiscating Russian assets at a meeting in Kyiv with US treasury secretary Janet Yellen.

At the time, Ms Yellen responded that there were serious legal obstacles to confiscating some USD 300 billion in Russian Central Bank frozen assets.

In his speech in Washington, Mr Zelenskyy stressed that "Russia must feel the full price of its aggression."

"For the first time in history, the world has such a vast opportunity to charge the aggressor with compensation for damages – the one who is guilty of the unprovoked and illegal war," Ukraine’s president stressed.

"It’s necessary to work on concrete mechanisms for using frozen Russian assets to compensate for the damage caused by Russia. It must be clearly stated that the assets, including the assets of the Russian Central Bank, will be confiscated."

It will be a peacemaking act on a global scale. Potential aggressors must see this and remember that the world can be strong," Mr Zelenskyy concluded.

Ukraine has long been calling for an estimated USD 300 billion frozen Russian assets to be confiscated and allocated for reconstruction purposes. Most Western partners are, however, reluctant to do so, citing legal obstacles relating to confiscation of private property.

Some countries, still, have adopted makeshift mechanisms allowing for confiscating some Russian sanctions-related assets as part of criminal proceedings.

For instance, in early February a US court confiscated USD 5.4 million in assets of sanctioned Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev, paving the way for the money to be potentially used to rebuild Ukraine.