ukraine war: Biden seeks new powers to use oligarchs’ assets for Ukraine

US President Joe Biden is asking Congress on Thursday for new powers to seize and repossess the assets of Russian oligarchs as part of a new funding request to aid Ukraine in its defense against Russia’s invasion. are.

In remarks at the White House on Thursday morning, Biden will seek billions of dollars in additional US spending to supply Ukraine’s military, bolster its economy and support the millions of refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion two months ago.

The White House said it would also seek new officials from Congress to strengthen US sanctions against the Russian government and those who benefit from it.

Biden is asking lawmakers to make it a criminal offense for a person to “deliberately or knowingly engage in corrupt dealings with the Russian government,” double the statute of limitations for foreign money laundering offenses to 10 years, and Expands its definition. “Fraud” under US law to include attempts to evade sanctions.

Biden will also ask Congress to allow the federal government to use the proceeds from selling confiscated assets of sanctioned Russian oligarchs to help the people of Ukraine.

In a virtual address to leaders of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Ukraine to use the proceeds of sanctioned assets and central bank reserves to compensate for its losses.

He said the frozen Russian assets “should be used to rebuild Ukraine after the war, as well as pay for the damages caused to other countries”.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said at the time that authorizing such actions would require Congressional action.

World Bank President David Malpass said last week that the war had already caused more than $60 billion in damage to buildings and infrastructure.

And the IMF forecast in its latest world economic outlook that Ukraine’s economy will shrink by 35 percent this year and next.

In recent weeks, the US and global allies have included dozens of oligarchs and their family members, as well as hundreds of Russian officials believed or believed to support its invasion of Ukraine.

The White House says the new tools will toughen the impact of sanctions on Russia’s economy and its ruling class by making it more difficult to evade sanctions.

The White House has declined to preview dollar figures for Ukraine’s funding request, which is to be sent to Congress later on Thursday.

That package will also include a renewed request for USD22.5 billion for the COVID-19 response, which the White House has said is needed to secure the next generation of vaccines and therapeutics in the US.

The new request would come on top of the US$13.6 billion Congress approved last month in military and economic aid to help Ukraine – as well as other allies in the region – now in its ninth week dealing with the fallout of the war.

The request is intended to cover US aid to Ukraine over the next five months until the end of the current budget year.

Biden warned last week that the $6.5 billion earmarked for security aid for Ukraine could soon be “depleted” and Congress would need to approve supplemental funding. More than half of the funds approved for weapons and equipment for the Ukrainian military have already been withdrawn.

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