White House proposes plan to sell Russian yachts for Ukraine aid
The White House unveiled a proposed legislative package on Thursday that would allow the federal government to sell assets seized from Russian oligarchs over the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine and use the proceeds for military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
Why it matters: The U.S. has already seized million of dollars in assets from wealthy Russians with close ties to President Vladimir Putin. It and other governments are hoping that financial pressure on those individuals will translate into political pressure on Putin, potentially curtailing his power.
- The proposal comes after the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to urge the Biden administration to liquidate the seized assets to help Ukraine.
- It includes provisions that would streamline the process for seizing oligarchs' assets, expand the assets subject to seizure and clamp down on certain sanction evasion loopholes.
After Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. and several other countries raised new sanctions on Russian oligarchs and entities directly supporting the Kremlin's war.
- Not all rich Russians have deep ties to Putin, though a huge amount of wealth — and the illicit wealth flowing out of Russia — is concentrated in the hands of senior officials or those in Kremlin-appointed business positions, such as the executive roles in one of the country's state-owned energy companies.
By the numbers: More than a dozen yachts, worth approximately $2.5 billion, belonging to Russian oligarchs have been seized in several countries worldwide since the armed conflict started, and more are expected to be seized.
- The White House said Thursday that European Union member states have reported freezing over $30 billion in assets, including almost $7 billion in boats, helicopters, real estate and artwork.
The big picture: They are now considering what to do with the seized Russian assets, and other countries are also proposing using liquidated assets to help Ukrainian refugees or for rebuilding the country.
- The Department of Justice created a Russian sanctions enforcement task force in early March.
- It made its first major seizure of Russian assets in early April after, with the help of Spanish law enforcement officials, taking control of a $90 million yacht owned by oligarch and billionaire Viktor Vekselberg.
What's next: The request now heads to Congress. It will still have to pass through the House, as Wednesday's vote was largely symbolic.