ECB fires back at plans to seize Russian assets

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The confiscation of Moscow’s frozen funds could undermine international order, the head of the European Central Bank warns

US-backed proposals to seize frozen Russian assets could undermine the international order, European Central Bank (ECB) President Christine Lagarde has cautioned. Her comments came during a meeting in Washington on Wednesday, where the G7 finance ministers and central bank governors were discussing the issue of using the immobilized assets of the Russian central bank to support Ukraine.

In a joint statement, the finance ministers and regulators said they would continue working on “all possible avenues” to make use of Russian sovereign assets, according to Reuters. The push to seize Moscow’s money has been led by the US and has caused a rift among the G7 and the EU political elite.

Washington and its allies have blocked some $300 billion of Russian central bank assets due to sanctions adopted in response to the launch of Moscow’s special military operation against Kiev in February 2022. Around $200 billion of that money is held in the EU. The US has been insisting for months that international law allows for the confiscation of the funds, but Germany and France have expressed concerns that such a move could set a dangerous precedent.

”I have seen four different schemes or proposals to circumvent what many other jurists or lawyers… regard as a very serious legal obstacle that can be construed as a violation of the legal international order,” Lagarde, a former lawyer, said, as quoted by the Financial Times.

Moving from freezing the assets to confiscating them could entail “breaking the international order that you want to protect; that you would want Russia to respect,” she added.

During the meeting in Washington, a senior US Treasury official outlined the options the finance ministers were “doing technical work” on.

”One of them is seizure, but another is collateralizing, or even using the windfall profits or the interest from these assets to fund a loan,” Deputy US Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said, as quoted by Reuters. The outlet reported earlier that the US and its allies were considering using the interest due on the frozen Russian assets as collateral for loans or bonds issued to help Ukraine.

Moscow has repeatedly said that the seizure of its funds would amount to theft and would further undermine global trust in the Western financial system. Russia has also warned that if necessary, it might respond in kind to such a move by the US and its allies.

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