Canadian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland
BERLIN (AP) — Western allies are considering whether to allow Russian oligarchs to buy their way out of sanctions and using the money to rebuild Ukraine, according to government officials familiar with the matter.
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 officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly about internal G-7 discussions.
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 proving money to Ukraine.
The proposal could help remove a legal hurdle for authorities in countries such as Germany, where the bar for confiscating frozen assets is very high. By voluntarily giving up a share of their fortune abroad, oligarchs would save Western governments the potential embarrassment of being rebuffed by their own courts.