Saturday, April 20, 2024

Russia says to respond to seizure of its assets with very tough measures

Moscow will give a very tough response to any seizure of its assets and will treat the West as equivalent to thieves, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said on air during a Soloviev Live television broadcast.

“This is theft. This is misappropriation of what does not belong to them. We indeed see different methods, probably not to backtrack but to somehow play in this case, because they understood that our response will be very tough, just like to all of [their] previous approaches,” the diplomat stated.

“When they understood it, they started attempting to finally estimate somehow the cost for them, what type of tit-for-tat measures would cover it exactly, and that they would be hit by retaliatory measures, and there will be retaliatory measures, which, I would like to reiterate, will be very harsh. Given that our country has categorized [the West’s actions] as theft, the attitude taken will be that taken toward thieves. Not toward political manipulators, not toward spin doctors or orchestrators who have outplayed their hand, but precisely toward thieves,” Zakharova stressed.

The West is seeking to confiscate Russian assets to compensate for the heavy costs of maintaining “the bloody Ukrainian conflict and the Kiev regime”, she added.

Western countries have blocked an estimated $300 billion in assets belonging to the Russian central bank since the start of Moscow’s military campaign against Ukraine in February 2022. Of that amount, €196.6 billion ($211 billion) is being held by the Belgium-based clearing house Euroclear, which last year earned nearly €4.4 billion worth of interest on the funds.

While there have been calls to confiscate the money outright and transfer it to Ukraine, skeptics have warned that this could erode global trust in the EU’s banking sector, with such drastic measures being far from watertight legally.

Over the weekend, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused Brussels of attempting to “create the illusion of legitimacy over attacks on our property and thereby camouflage what is in fact an outright theft”.

The European Council ordered on Monday that “extraordinary cash balances accumulating due to EU restrictive measures” be kept in separate accounts, with depositors holding frozen Russian assets prohibited from disposing of any interest or profits from the funds.

“This decision paves the way for the Council to decide on a possible establishment of a financial contribution to the EU budget raised on these net profits to support Ukraine and its recovery and reconstruction at a later stage,” officials in Brussels clarified in a statement.

The US State Department was quick to applaud the decision, while spokesperson Matthew Miller revealed that Washington continues to be “in active conversations with our allies and partners, including the G7” on potential ways to seize Russian assets.

Earlier this month, EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni acknowledged that Brussels is treading carefully on the issue. He noted that the bloc had overcome a Hungarian veto on a new aid package to Ukraine, meaning that the EU no longer had to address the issue of frozen Russian funds “in a rushed way.”

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