A joint letter written by the four showed on Monday that Lithuania, Slovakia, Latvia and Estonia will demand on Tuesday the confiscation of Russian assets frozen by the European Union to fund the rebuilding of Ukraine after the Russian invasion.
On May 3, Ukraine estimated the amount of money needed to rebuild the country from the devastation caused by Russia at nearly $600 billion. The letter added that with the war still in full swing, the amount was likely to have risen sharply.
“A significant part of the costs of rebuilding Ukraine, including compensation for victims of Russian military aggression, must be borne by Russia,” said the letter to be presented to EU finance ministers on Tuesday.
The letter, seen by Reuters, calls on the 27-nation bloc to begin preparing for new sanctions against Moscow.
“Ultimately, if Russia does not stop military aggression against Ukraine,” she said, “there should be no economic ties left between the EU and Russia at all – to ensure that none of our financial resources, products or services contribute to the Russian war machine.”
The four countries noted that the European Union and like-minded countries have already frozen assets owned by Russian individuals and entities and about $300 billion in central bank reserves.
“We must now identify legal ways to maximize the use of these resources as a source of financing – both for the costs of Ukraine’s ongoing efforts to counter Russian aggression, and for the country’s post-war reconstruction,” they said.
“Confiscation of state assets, such as central bank reserves or property of state-owned enterprises, has a direct link and effect in this regard.”
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The European Union has so far frozen assets worth 30 billion euros belonging to Russian and Belarusian rulers and entities.
Last Wednesday, the European Commission said it might check whether frozen Russian assets to finance Ukraine could be confiscated under national and EU laws, but did not mention the central bank’s reserves.
“Asset freezing is different from asset confiscation,” said commission spokesman Christian Wiegand. “In most member states, this is not possible, and a criminal conviction is necessary for asset confiscation. Also, legally speaking, private entities and central bank assets are not the same.
He said that later this week the Commission will present a proposal to make breaching restrictive measures a crime in the EU, as well as a proposal to review and strengthen existing EU rules on forfeiture and strengthen the asset recovery and forfeiture regime.
“In cases where the legal ways of confiscating assets will not be determined, they should be used as leverage and only released once Russia compensates Ukraine for all the damages that have occurred,” the four countries said.
Russia describes its actions in Ukraine as a “special operation” that it says is designed not to occupy territory but to destroy its southern neighbor’s military capabilities and seize what it considers dangerous nationalists.