Russia eyes law on freezing foreign state assets

23rd July 2015, Comments 0 comments

Russia is to consider legislation that would allow it to freeze assets of foreign states in retaliation for the seizure of its property overseas, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday.

Medvedev backed the proposal that comes after official Russian assets were blocked in a number of Western European countries over a court ruling in favour of ex-shareholders from defunct oil firm Yukos.

Medvedev told a cabinet meeting that Russia should be able to lift a foreign state's immunity from complying with Russian court decisions, "including those that call for confiscation of property".

The former Yukos shareholders are trying to collect some of the record $50 billion (44 billion euros) in compensation awarded to them by an arbitration court in The Hague last year for the way Russia seized and dismantled the company after arresting Yukos owner and prominent Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 2003

In June, Russia's foreign assets in several European countries -- including Belgium and France -- were briefly frozen over the ruling.

Russia does not agree with the Yukos rulings and has threatened to strike back at any asset seizures.

Medvedev said the new bill was drawn up "in the context of -- usually unlawful -- actions taken against our state and our state property in a number of other countries... for political reasons."

The bill, submitted by the justice ministry, will be considered in September when parliament returns from its break, the head of the Duma lower house's department on property rights, Sergei Gavrilov, told RIA Novosti.

"I think we will support it," he said.

The bill comes amid "more and more claims against Russia and its government bodies in foreign courts," the Vedomosti business daily wrote.

The bill would not allow Russia to seize assets of heads of states and embassies or warships and aircraft, Vedomosti reported after seeing the draft law.

Russia in May passed a law under which "undesirable" international organisations risk being banned from the country and having their bank accounts blocked.

© 2015 AFP

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