European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has dubbed it ‘unthinkable’ that Russia not pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction.
Johannes Simon | Getty Images News | Getty Images
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Saturday it would be “unthinkable” for Russia not to pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction.
The EU chief told CNBC that she was “disappointed” by a decision that Swiss authorities took last week against using seized Russian assets to assist with Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction. She insisted that Moscow would be held financially accountable for the destruction inflicted on its neighbor.
“It’s unthinkable that, in the very end, the international community will reconstruct Ukraine, and Russia does not contribute. This is not thinkable,” she told Hadley Gamble at the Munich Security Conference.
Swiss authorities on Wednesday ruled that it was unconstitutional to permanently confiscate the assets of sanctioned Russians held within the country.
Until now, Bern has moved in lockstep with the EU in freezing the assets of high-profile Russians connected to President Vladimir Putin. It currently holds some 7.5 billion Swiss francs ($8.1 billion) in frozen assets.
Von der Leyen described the ruling as putting business interests ahead of political justice. Asked if she was disappointed by the decision, she was unequivocal.
“Yes, I was disappointed,” she said. “I think this is a difficult choice to put the business model at first place, because, indeed, we have to have the political will that the perpetrator has to pay also for the reconstruction of Ukraine.”
Von der Leyen is part of a growing chorus of EU leaders who have called for new ways to make it easier to confiscate Russian assets and use them towards Ukraine’s reconstruction. It has been proposed that such funds could come from assets seized from either Russian oligarchs or the Russian central bank.
Von der Leyen said procedures are under way within the EU to establish a tribunal process to ensure that Russia is held accountable for its actions in Ukraine. It comes as the war enters its second year.
“He has to be held accountable for the war crimes,” the European Commission president said of Putin.
Russia last year said central bank sanctions imposed by the EU and its allies had frozen about $300 billion out of its foreign exchange reserves.
The IMF has estimated that Ukraine will require in excess of $40 billion in financial support in 2023 alone.
IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told CNBC earlier Saturday that a fully-fledged support package for Ukraine is just “weeks” away. The agreement, first announced Friday, paves the way for talks on a full loan program that would support Kyiv’s economy and further its bid to join the European Union.