West urged to seize Russia’s frozen $350bn to fund war in Ukraine

Bill Browder

Bill Browder, the British financier and arch-critic of Vladimir Putin, says the commitment to support Kyiv with money and weapons is waning


7 December 2022 •

The West must seize $350 billion in frozen Russian funds and use it to arm Ukrainians, MPs and MEPs have been told.

Bill Browder, the British financier and arch-critic of Vladimir Putin, led calls in Brussels on Wednesday to free up the money to fund the war in Ukraine.

Liz Truss, who was foreign secretary at the time, announced earlier this year that Britain had frozen $350 billion of “Putin’s war chest” as it targeted banks and financial institutions – a move seen as hitting the Russian economy harder than sanctioning individuals.

While the West has continued to support Ukraine with money and weapons, Mr Browder warned that the commitment to doing this was waning.

“Ukraine’s future success is almost totally dependent on continued military and financial support from the West,” Mr Browder told The Telegraph.

“While that military and financial support was and is currently robust, as time goes on, the West’s appetite for further support will be strained by financial considerations,” he said.

“The cost of living crisis in the UK, the challenges by right-wing Republicans in the US, demonstrations against sanctions in Germany all suggest that Ukraine may be vulnerable in the future.” 

Speaking alongside Ukrainian MPs at the European Parliament on Wednesday, Mr Browder urged governments to “fix the problem” by going after the money of Russia’s central bank.

“One single move could solve this whole problem,” he said. “It is seizing the $350 billion of Russian Central Bank reserves for the purposes of Ukraine’s defence and reconstruction.” 

A Ukrainian soldier attacks Russian positions on the front line near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region
A Ukrainian soldier attacks Russian positions on the front line near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region CREDIT: AP
A local resident leaves his home after Russian shelling destroyed an apartment building in Bakhmut
A local resident leaves his home after Russian shelling destroyed an apartment building in Bakhmut CREDIT: AP

Mr Browder argued that while governments were reluctant to go after the cash for “fear of breaking with long-standing tradition that asserts that countries enjoy sovereign immunity”, there were already legal precedents where national assets had been seized and used for compensation in legal claims.  

“As economic pressures mount, this will morph from a legal into a political question and will become the main tool to address the Ukrainian financial conundrum,” he said.

Ukrainian MPs Kira Rudik and Lesia Vasylenko have travelled to Western capitals to rally support for this proposal in recent weeks.

Mr Browder has long been a thorn in the side of the Russian president.

In November 2009 Mr Browder’s lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, 37, was tortured and killed in a Moscow prison where he was held after uncovering a web of corruption allegedly involving senior Russian officials.

In 2012 the Magnitsky Act was passed in the US to punish those who could have been involved in his death.

Mr Browder said: “I feel hopeful. I got the Magnitsky Act passed in 35 countries when people said it wasn’t possible at the time.”

He added: “At the end of the day the only thing that’s going to save Ukraine is the money. This is the beginning of a process to soften the ground to make this possible.”

One comment

  1. 350 billion still not enough to repair all the damage they caused and will never bring back lives lost, but it must not only be frozen but seized and given to Ukraine in order to offset some of the restoration. The Magnitsky Act provided the way.

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