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UK could use frozen Russian assets to help rebuild Ukraine, Sunak hints

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The UK is mulling the idea of using frozen Russian assets to help pay for the rebuilding of war-torn Ukraine, Rishi Sunak hinted as the nation’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, visited London.

An independent foundation is being set up to collect sanctioned Russian assets, the Prime Minister told MPs.

The UK is working with allied countries to see if it can legalise using those assets to help foot Ukraine’s massive reconstruction bill, he said.

Mr Sunak welcomed Mr Zelensky to Downing Street on Wednesday during the wartime leader’s first trip to the UK since Russia invaded his country almost a year ago.

The pair discussed “the possibility of involving the British side in the post-war reconstruction of our country”, according to the Ukrainian President’s office.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Sir Keir Starmer told Mr Sunak that MPs “don’t just hope for Ukraine’s victory, we believe in it”, adding this must include Ukraine’s reconstruction.

The Labour leader said: “Does the Prime Minister agree with me that Russia should pay for the destruction it has caused through the wealth lying dormant in blocked Russian government assets?”

Mr Sunak said the UK is the third-largest humanitarian and economic donor to Ukraine and pointed to sanctions it has imposed on Russia.

He added: “We’ve ensured the provision of funds here will be put in a foundation for reconstruction in Ukraine and we’re currently working with international partners through the legal process to use those assets to fund Ukrainian reconstruction.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visit to UK
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses MPs and peers in Parliament (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

On Tuesday, Labour former minister Sir Chris Bryant tabled a proposed law to enable Russian state assets frozen in the UK to be seized and used to help rebuild Ukraine.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman told reporters that the foundation being established is expected to be one of the UK’s biggest charities.

He said: “We will look at what we can do in the long term to raise money for the reconstruction of Ukraine.

“We are already establishing an independent foundation to manage and distribute funds using Russian assets. There are humanitarian experts outside of Government responsible for this process, and once established the foundation we’re setting up will be one of the largest charities in the UK.”

Kyiv has proposed a “special compensation mechanism which will compensate war losses at the expense of Russian assets”, Mr Zelensky said in a rousing speech to parliamentarians in Westminster Hall.

MPs on Tuesday heard that Ukraine estimates Russia has caused one trillion US dollars of damage since the start of the full-scale invasion in February 2022, which does not include costs associated with territory invaded in 2014.

Rhondda MP Sir Chris said that almost 350 billion dollars worth of Russian central bank reserves have been frozen by democratic countries around the world, with £26 billion of that frozen in the UK.

“Canada, Italy, the European Union and US are all considering action. It is the very least we owe the people of Ukraine,” he said.

“Russia has forfeited its rights to these assets, it owes Ukraine far more than money, it owes it blood.”