The West should confiscate Russian assets

Dilbar is one of the world’s largest superyachts. The 512-foot vessel weighs almost 16,000 tons and boasts a swimming pool, two helicopter pads, a sauna, a beauty salon, and a gym. According to the US Treasury, it is worth around £650 million.

In April, after Russia’s illegal invasion of my country, the German authorities seized Dilbar as it was docked in Hamburg.

They moved to act because the owner is Alisher Usmanov, a Russian oligarch once estimated to be the richest person in the UK.

Following the invasion, Mr Usmanov, who used to co-own Arsenal Football Club, was placed on Western sanctions lists because of his close ties to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president. The US Treasury said his links to the Kremlin “enrich him and enable his luxurious lifestyle”.

It is not yet known what will happen to Dilbar. Legions of lawyers are now reportedly involved.

But for Ukraine, it is very clear.

The superyacht and all of its 1,000 sofa cushions should be confiscated from Mr Usmanov for his links to a Russian regime that has raped, tortured and murdered Ukrainians during an unprovoked war that has tilted the world on its axis.

The proceeds of sale should be immediately transferred to the Ukrainian people, who have suffered a gross violation of international peace and security.

The sale of the £650 million Dilbar could help to support the 13 million Ukrainians who have been forced to flee their homes since the Russian invasion.

It could help to support the 4.8 million Ukrainian jobs that have been lost during the war – 30 per cent of our overall workforce.

It could also help to support more than six million people in Ukraine who each day struggle to access drinking water.

But it is not just the German authorities who can act over Mr Usmanov.

Canada leads the way against Russian oligarchs

Our friend Boris Johnson can also bring in new laws to confiscate his sprawling UK property empire, which reportedly includes Beechwood House in north London, worth an estimated £48 million, and 16th-century Sutton Place estate in Surrey, worth an estimated £34 million . He reportedly put them into trusts earlier this year but we would argue he still effectively owns them.

The well-paid Western enablers employed by these kleptocrats will doubtless argue that property ownership is a fundamental right that has underpinned mature democracies for centuries.

Unfortunately for them, one of the most advanced economies on Earth has already shown the way.

Canada has recognized that Ukraine, and the world, faces a new era that requires new and innovative solutions. Last month, its parliament passed groundbreaking laws allowing for the freezing and confiscation of Russian assets located in Canada.

They can then be transferred to assist with the “reconstruction of a foreign state … negatively affected by a gross violation of international peace and security”.

Announcing the law, Chrystia Freeland, the country’s finance minister, made no secret of the motivation.

“We think it’s really important to extend our legal authorities because it’s going to be really, really important to find the money to rebuild Ukraine,” she said. “I can think of no more appropriate source of that funding than confiscated Russian assets.”

Ukraine welcomes the courageous decision of the Canadian parliament. We also call on other Western leaders, including Canada’s partners in the G7, to enact the same laws.

We will discuss this and other potential measures on Monday, at an international conference on the post-war economic reconstruction of Ukraine in Switzerland, where we will be calling for a new Marshall Plan.

Our need is substantial. The Russian invasion has caused a massive disruption of economic activity. The damage caused from destroyed roads, bridges and livelihoods is currently at £100 billion and rising. When the guns fall silent, the World Bank estimates the final bill could be as much as £1 trillion.

Amid the carnage and trauma, hope still remains

Yet amid the carnage and trauma, hope still remains. If Ukraine receives the same global financial support as Germany after World War Two, then we can use this terrible conflict as a unique opportunity. Not just to recover war-related damages, but to turbocharge economic growth and quality of life in Ukraine.

The Marshall Plan triggered a post-war economic boom in Germany. The same can happen in Ukraine. By joining the European Union, we can also integrate Ukraine into global value chains and information networks.

In many ways, we start from a position of strength. Ukraine already has strong industries covering defence, metals, machinery, energy, agriculture and technology.

We just need our friends and allies to give us a helping hand. And at an estimated value of £234 billion, the Bank of Russia’s reserves, currently frozen in Western accounts, would be a decent starter.

Andriy Yermak is the head of the Office of the Ukrainian President.


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