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Western allies are considering whether to allow Russian oligarchs to buy their way out of sanctions and use the money to rebuild Ukraine

27-5-2022 |

Canadian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland proposed the idea at a G-7 finance ministers’ meeting in Germany last week.

Freeland raised the issue after oligarchs spoke to her about it, one official said. The Canadian minister knows some Russian oligarchs from her time as a journalist in Moscow.

The official said the Ukrainians were aware of the discussions. The official said it’s also in the West’s interests to have prominent oligarchs dissociate themselves from Russian President Vladimir Putin while at the same time providing funding for Ukraine.

“We would not be talking about this if there wasn’t some comfort on the part of the Ukrainians,” the official said. “We need to know that it works for them, too.”

The proposal was raised in the context of providing additional money to Ukraine and how the frozen funds and assets of oligarchs could be a source of funds.

At this point, it is just an idea, the official said, but Western allies have expressed interest. European Union officials have talked about the need to look at different and new avenues of confiscating assets and providing money to Ukraine.

The EU has imposed asset freezes and travel bans on more than 1,000 people, including over 30 oligarchs, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

A 2017 study of Russian oligarchs published by the U.S.-based National Economic Bureau estimated that as much as $800 billion is held by wealthy Russians in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Cyprus and other offshore banking centers.