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We must use more Russian assets to fund Ukraine

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak welcomes President Joe Biden to Downing Street (Alamy)

3 min read

As close allies the UK and US should lead the way in using frozen Russian assets to help fund Ukraine's victory over Putin.

It should be brutally obvious to all that Vladimir Putin is responsible for the destruction that his illegal invasion force has caused in Ukraine and bears the sole burden of paying for Ukraine’s reconstruction.

Seizing frozen Russian sovereign assets and converting them as aid to Ukraine is the ultimate economic deterrence and sends a signal to Putin to get out of Ukraine. 

The United States is leading this effort.

One of our bills, the Rebuilding Economic Prosperity and Opportunity (REPO) for Ukrainians Act, was signed into US law. The REPO Act takes roughly $5-7 billion in Russian sovereign assets (central bank reserves) held in the US and transfers them into an international fund to rebuild Ukraine and provide economic and humanitarian assistance — all consistent with past US precedent and international law.

This action by the US signals to G7 nations and other allies that Russia must be held financially accountable for its illegal invasion of Ukraine. The REPO Act serves as a model for these countries — particularly in Europe where the majority of theroughly $300 billion in Russian central bank reserves are located — to enact their own legislation.

This is why one of us is working to introduce similar legislation in the House of Commons.  

As a former UK Foreign Office Minister covering sanctions, I know the real impact they had with regards to cutting off Putin's finances to support his war machine. That meant working closely with the US and allies around the world. It is important we work with the US on this key initiative.  

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has publicly said that the UK “must be bolder in seizing the hundreds of billions of frozen Russian assets". Foreign Secretary David Cameron has also publicly stated, “there are frozen Russian assets in the UK and Europe and elsewhere and we should be finding ways of using those assets to help Ukraine in its defense”, and that it was “important we try and get agreement” on how. 

The “how” has been answered by the US.

The REPO Act is a template for seizing frozen Russian sovereign assets and is consistent with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) resolution that unanimously passed on 16 April, calling for the transfer of frozen Russian assets into a new fund for Ukraine’s aid and reconstruction.

Our nations must lead together in a decisive manner to swiftly seize frozen Russian sovereign assets so that Putin pays for his wrongful acts under international law.

If we don’t, it’s simple: failure in Ukraine means a more costly, horrific future. It’s bad for Europe, the sovereignty of Ukraine, and the world.


Rehman Chishti is the Conservative MP for Gillingham & Rainham and French Hill is a US Representative for Arkansas.

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