Canada, US agree Ukraine needs money from Russian assets, Freeland says

By Thomson Reuters Feb 27, 2024 | 10:03 AM

By Promit Mukherjee and Ismail Shakil

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada and the United States fully agree on the urgent need to move forward with confiscating frozen Russian sovereign assets to help Ukraine, which has recently faced setbacks on the battlefield, Canada’s Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Tuesday.

Freeland and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will meet this week with G7 and G20 counterparts in Brazil. Earlier on Tuesday, Yellen said unlocking the frozen assets was “necessary and urgent.”

Freeland said she had a long conversation with Yellen over the weekend about the issue.

“She and I agree 100%,” Freeland told reporters in Ottawa before flying to Brazil.

“We need to, now more than ever, show Putin that we are serious, that we are not flagging in our support for Ukraine,” she said. “The work on the assets of the Russian Central Bank … would show that we quite literally have the assets to endure and keep on going.”

The issue has grown in importance since $61 billion in further U.S. aid to Ukraine has been blocked by the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives.

Freeland acknowledged that some countries had concerns about confiscating some $285 billion in Russian assets immobilized in 2022.

“The Canadian perspective is we have to work hard, find answers to those questions, and move forward,” Freeland said.

Yellen earlier acknowledged there were risks involved, but downplayed concerns raised by some in Europe that confiscating Russian assets would undermine the role of the U.S. dollar, euro or Japanese yen as important global reserve currencies.

The EU and G7 have been debating if and how these funds can be used for over a year. Two-thirds of these funds are in the EU with the majority of that held by Belgium’s clearing house Euroclear.

(Reporting by Promit Mukherjee and Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; writing by Steve Scherer; editing by Jonathan Oatis)