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Historic seizure of Russian assets for Ukraine approved by Senate panel

The new legislation would pave the way for Washington to confiscate Russian central bank assets amounting to $300 billion and direct them to Ukraine’s reconstruction.
US Senate, frozen assets, rebuilding Ukraine
President Zelenskyy meets with co-chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Jim Risch (Republican) in Kyiv in June 2022. Credit: president.gov.ua

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the Rebuilding Economic Prosperity and Opportunity (REPO) for Ukrainians Act 20-1 on Wednesday, 24 January, Reuters reports. The bill has broad bipartisan support and, if passed, will set the scene for Ukraine to get hold of some $300 billion of Russia’s frozen assets worldwide.

The act is expected to pass the full Senate and House of Representatives and be signed into law by President Biden. It would allow the US government to seize the central bank assets of a country it is not at war with, which is a historic first.

“Ukraine is on the verge of being overrun by Russia if we do not give them the help that they need,” Senator Ben Cardin, the Democratic foreign relations committee chairman, told Reuters about the proposed asset seizure. “We all know that it will not end with Ukraine,” he said.

Over $300 billion of Russian central bank assets have been frozen by the EU, United States, Japan, and Canada since Russia invaded Ukraine, with only 5 to 6 billion located in the US. However, Russia is bracing to challenge any attempts to confiscate its central bank reserves. 

The REPO Act would direct any confiscated Russian funds specifically to rebuilding Ukraine. Independently, President Biden has requested $61 billion in new military and humanitarian aid, which has stalled in Congress.

“This is intended to be a big hammer. It’s intended to be a very new way of attacking a country that does not behave itself,” Republican Senator Jim Risch said before the vote.

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