Russia threatens to seize assets of ‘hostile’ countries

Published May 2, 2022
Russia's State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin is seen before the Victory Day Parade in Red Square in Moscow, Russia on June 24, 2020. — Reuters/File
Russia's State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin is seen before the Victory Day Parade in Red Square in Moscow, Russia on June 24, 2020. — Reuters/File

MOSCOW/BERLIN: Russia suggested on Sunday that it could seize the Russian-based assets of countries it deems hostile in retaliation for a US proposal to sell off Russian oligarchs’ assets and pay the proceeds to Ukraine.

“As far as companies based in Russian territory are concerned whose owners are citizens of hostile countries and where the decision has been taken” to seize Russian assets, “it is fair to take reciprocal measures and confiscate assets,” said the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin.

“And the proceeds from the sale of these assets will be used for our country’s development,” he said on his Telegram channel.

Volodin accused “a certain number of hostile countries — Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and even the United States” — of flouting international law and “resorting to pure theft”.

Volodin said that “today, Russian businessmen are buying foreign companies operating in Russia, and purchasing the shares of partners who want to quit our market”. He urged “hostile” countries to “act in a civilised manner and respect international law.” Volodin’s remarks came after US President Joe Biden announced a proposal to ratchet up economic pressure on Russia, with enhanced seizure and forfeiture procedures allowing oligarchs’ seized assets to be “sold off” to “remedy the harm Russia caused and to help build Ukraine.”

“A dangerous precedent has been set, which could boomerang back on the US itself,” Volodin said.

“This decision won’t affect our country’s economy. The yachts, villas and other assets of rich (Russian) citizens contribute nothing to the development” of Russia, he said.

Germany slashes energy reliance on Moscow

Germany said on Sunday it has made progress in sharply reducing its reliance on Russian energy, a strategic shift Europe’s biggest economy has embarked on since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Russian supplies now make up 12 percent of Germany’s oil imports compared to 35 percent previously, the economy ministry said in a statement.

Coal from Russia has also been slashed to eight percent compared to 45 percent of Germany’s purchases previously.

Dependence on gas remains substantial, but Europe’s biggest economy had also reduced its Russian sources to 35 percent of the total compared to 55 percent before Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

The government had in March laid out plans to halve oil imports from Russia by June and to end coal deliveries by the autumn.

Germany is also expected to be able to largely wean itself off Russian gas in mid-2024.

“All these steps that we have taken require an enormous effect from all players and they also mean costs that are being felt by the economy and consumers,” said Economy Minister Robert Habeck. “But they are necessary if we no longer want to be blackmailed by Russia,” he stressed.

The reliance of Europe’s biggest economy on Russian energy has been exposed as an Achilles’ heel as Western allies scramble to penalise Vladimir Putin for his attack on Ukraine. The export giant has since been racing to find alternative energy suppliers to replace Russian contracts.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2022

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