[Fox Business] Yellen claps back at Putin calling use of seized Russian assets to support Ukraine ‘theft’: ‘No sense at all’

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U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen dismissed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that a plan devised by G-7 leaders to use seized Russian assets to support Ukraine equates to “theft.”

Yellen explained the Biden administration’s position during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.” 

In response to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the U.S. and “our global coalition partners decided to freeze, to impound Russian sovereign assets in our jurisdiction,” she said.

“And that amounted to around $280 billion,” Yellen added. “And, of that, the vast majority, around $200 billion, are sitting in a Belgian financial institution where they’re generating income that does not belong to Russia and had been accruing to that institution. And we have agreed — the G-7 and our partners — have agreed to tap the value of that stream to provide a $50 billion loan to Ukraine that will be paid from those so-called windfall profits that are accruing in this financial institution.

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“We’re really building on work that Europe did earlier to make sure that the flow, around $3 billion to $5 billion a year, went to Ukraine, but we’re bringing that forward by making a loan that will be repaid over time.”

The leaders of the Group of Seven major democracies last week agreed on an outline agreement to provide $50 billion in loans for Ukraine, using interest accrued from Russian sovereign assets frozen after thousands of Putin’s troops invaded Ukraine, Reuters reported. 

A day later, Putin criticized the deal, telling a meeting of his foreign ministry officials the “theft,” as he called it, won’t go unpunished. 

“Despite all the chicanery, theft will certainly remain theft. And it will not go unpunished,” Putin said, according to Reuters’ translation. “Now it is becoming obvious to all countries, companies [and] sovereign funds that their assets and reserves are far from safe in both the legal and economic sense of the word. … Anyone could be next in line for expropriation by the U.S. and the West.”

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Asked about concern over legal challenges or possible Russian retaliation, Yellen pushed back Sunday. 

“There is no sense at all in which it’s theft,” Yellen said. “The Russian assets remain in this institution. They’ve been impounded. The investments that Russia had have matured. So, Russia’s funds are sitting in cash, but they’re generating income for the institution, which Russia has no claim on.

“So, there’s no legal issue here,” she added. “And our allies, our partners, the G-7, will provide Ukraine a $50 billion loan, which will be repaid over time from these proceeds. And I’d say the G-7 leaders had already made it clear that they will not unfreeze these assets until Russia pays for the damage that it’s cost Ukraine.

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“And we’re really in a battle of wills with Putin,” Yellen said. “Putin, I think, believes that our coalition will crumble in the sense we won’t go on providing Ukraine with the resources that they need to fight this war and to keep their economy running. And this is a way of showing that we have the capacity and the will to do so.”

Reuters contributed to this report. 

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