Bennet, Portman introduce bill to use seized Russian assets for Ukrainian relief

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) speaks to reporters during a press conference with other Republican senators to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday, March 2, 2022.
Anna Rose Layden

Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) on Tuesday unveiled a bill to require the Department of Justice to direct any funds resulting from the sale of seized Russian assets to support Ukrainian refugees and reconstruction.   

The Repurposing Elite Luxuries Into Emergency Funds for Ukraine Act, or Relief for Ukraine Act, would require the Justice Department to direct funds from the liquidation of seized Russian assets to a new Ukraine Relief Fund, which will be administered by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“Putin and his inner circle bear direct responsibility for the war in Ukraine and the shameful death, destruction, and dislocation it has unleashed,” said Bennet in a statement. “Our bill makes Putin and Russian oligarchs pay the price by ensuring that funds from their seized assets go directly to the Ukrainian people to support them through many difficult years ahead of resettlement, reconstruction, and recovery.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland on March 2 announced a special task force named KleptoCapture to enforce sanctions, export restrictions and economic countermeasures against Russian President Vladimir Putin and his circle of allies and supporters. 

The task force could use civil and criminal asset forfeiture authority to seize the luxury properties, yachts and private jets of Russian oligarchs close to Putin.  

Portman said Ukraine is suffering from the worst refugee crisis since World War II and needs help to resettle its displaced population and rebuild cities turned to rubble by Russian artillery.  

The relief fund would be used to protect the health and wellbeing of Ukrainian refugees and provide for reconstruction efforts in parts of Ukraine that aren’t controlled by Russian forces, according to a summary of the bill provided by the senators’ offices.

The legislation would require the administration to make regular reports to Congress on seized assets, funds transferred and what steps have been taken to support Ukrainian refugees and reconstruction.

“One way to help is to move from freezing the assets of Russian oligarchs and wealthy citizens to seizing their assets, and providing that funding to people of Ukraine to help with ongoing humanitarian efforts,” Portman said.

“I encourage all of my colleagues to support this critical legislation so that we can apply more pressure on Russia to stop this barbaric war and prioritize more rapid relief for our friends in Ukraine,” he added.

Tags Merrick Garland Michael Bennet Rob Portman Russia Ukraine Vladimir Putin

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