Putin Orders Hunt for Property of Russian Empire, Soviet Union

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(Bloomberg) -- Vladimir Putin is going on a property hunt, ordering officials to find Russian assets that once belonged to its former empire or were owned by the Soviet Union.

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An order from the Russian president published late Thursday allocated funding for a state unit to conduct searches for property abroad and ensure Russia’s ownership rights are registered. The document didn’t indicate the size of the budget for the operation or what kinds of property are being sought.

While it’s unclear what prompted the order, Putin’s interest in former imperial possessions is unlikely to ease concerns about his ambitions among neighboring states after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended European security.

At its peak, the Russian Empire extended into territories of modern Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as Finland. It dissolved under the pressure of World War I and the 1917 Bolshevik revolution led by Vladimir Lenin that marked the birth of the Communist state.

The Soviet Union, formed in 1922, covered much of the empire’s former territory, excluding Poland and Finland, until it collapsed in 1991 as constituent republics in the Baltics, the Caucasus, Ukraine, Belarus and central Asia became independent.

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