EU Blocks More Than €200 Billion in Russian Central Bank Assets

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union has immobilized more than €200 billion ($215 billion) in Russian central bank assets since Moscow invaded Ukraine, according to fresh numbers, underscoring the importance of ongoing discussions on how to use such funds to help rebuild the war-hit country.

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EU nations reported the new numbers on the blocked assets following the 10th sanctions package, which forced banks to divulge information on the size of their holdings.

“The EU is committed to ensure that Russia pays for the damages caused in Ukraine,” European Commission spokesman Christian Wigand, who confirmed the numbers, said in an interview. That’s why the EU is “exploring ways of using Russian frozen and immobilized assets for that purpose.”

The EU has also frozen €24.1 billion in Russian private assets of sanctioned individuals and entities since the invasion of Ukraine more than 14 months ago. It has sanctioned almost 1,500 individuals, restricted exports on hundreds of goods and technologies, and targeted many of Moscow’s key revenue sources, but has been struggling to find and freeze the assets of sanctioned Russian billionaires.

Reporting Obligations

The commission is working closely with Sweden, which holds the rotating EU presidency, “to move discussions forward” on proposed options to use frozen central bank assets, Wigand said.

The EU also continues discussions on this with international allies “to ensure the necessary coordination at international level,” but “these reflections are both legally and technically complex,” he said. EU leaders are expected to discuss this at their next meeting in June.

Reporting obligations on central bank assets have been in effect across the EU since May 12, providing the bloc with more clarity on what is being held.

Separately, the EU has been looking at powers to seize the private assets of sanctioned Russians in the event of criminal offense by extending the list of crimes, such as money-laundering and corruption, to include the evasion of EU sanctions.

The EU and its allies have repeatedly said that Russia must pay for the destruction it has bought on Ukraine. That principle was recently reaffirmed at a Group of Seven summit in Japan.

EU member states are exploring ways to use some of the assets to contribute toward Ukraine’s future reconstruction. One option being discussed is to invest the central bank and other Russian state assets and use any proceeds for Ukraine, Bloomberg previously reported.

(Updates with background from the fourth paragraph.)

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