Poland welcomes EC move to seize Russian assets

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Poland’s minister for European affairs has described as a “step in the right direction” an announcement by the European Commission (EC)’s head that the bloc will confiscate frozen Russian assets.

Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk said on Wednesday that such a move had been proposed by Poland from the beginning and that Warsaw fully supported it.

Officials in the European Union, the United States and other Western countries have debated for months how to legally seize Russian assets held abroad - both state and private - that are frozen by sanctions.

The problem is that in most EU member states, seizing frozen assets is only legally possible where there is a criminal conviction. Also, many assets of blacklisted Russian citizens are difficult to seize or even freeze because they are registered as belonging to family members or front people.

“We have blocked EUR 300 bn of the Russian Central Bank reserves and we have frozen EUR 19 bn of Russian oligarchs’ money,” Ursula von der Leyen, head of the EU’s executive said in a statement.

She added that in the short term the EU and its partners could manage the funds and invest them. The proceeds would go to Ukraine and ultimately compensate for damages caused to the country.

We will work on an international agreement with our partners to make this possible. And together, we can find legal ways to get to it,” von der Leyen explained.

She also said that the EU was proposing the establishment of a specialised court, backed by the United Nations, “to investigate and prosecute Russia’s crime of aggression.”