Divisions Among Finance Ministers Flare Over Seizing Russian Assets

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“While we should act together and in a considered way, I believe there is a strong international law, economic, and moral case for moving forward,” Ms. Yellen said.

But Mr. LeMaire, who spoke just a few hours ahead of a private meeting with Ms. Yellen, pushed back on that assertion.

“We don’t have the legal basis to seize the Russian assets and we should never act if we don’t obey by the international law and by the rule of law,” Mr. Le Maire said, according to a recording of his remarks.

Western officials have been considering several options for how they can use the approximately $300 billion Russian central bank assets, most of which is held in the European Union, to provide economic and military support for Ukraine. That includes the European Commission’s proposal of using interest earned on those assets, using funds as collateral to borrow money for Ukraine or giving Ukraine the money directly.

There have been signs of growing momentum among western policymakers to use Russia’s assets as Ukraine’s military situation becomes more dire. Rishi Sunak, Britain’s prime minister, urged his counterparts this week to be more aggressive in their efforts to find a lawful way to seize Russia’s assets. However, France and Germany have been urging a more cautious approach and Russia has vowed to retaliate if its assets are seized.

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