NATIONAL NEWS

Yellen urges world leaders to ‘unlock’ frozen Russian Central Bank assets and send them to Ukraine

Feb 27, 2024, 4:15 AM | Updated: 2:28 pm

FILE - Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen testifies before a House Financial Services Committee hearin...

FILE - Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen testifies before a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Feb. 6, 2024, in Washington. Yellen is offering her strongest public support yet for the idea of liquidating roughly $300 billion in frozen Russian Central Bank assets and using them for Ukraine’s long-term reconstruction. The U.S. and its allies froze Russian foreign holdings in retaliation for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Tuesday offered her strongest public support yet for the idea of liquidating roughly $300 billion in frozen Russian Central Bank assets and using them for Ukraine’s long-term reconstruction.

“It is necessary and urgent for our coalition to find a way to unlock the value of these immobilized assets to support Ukraine’s continued resistance and long-term reconstruction,” Yellen said in remarks in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where Group of 20 finance ministers and central bank governors are meeting this week.

“I believe there is a strong international law, economic, and moral case for moving forward. This would be a decisive response to Russia’s unprecedented threat to global stability,” she said.

The United States and its allies froze hundreds of billions of dollars in Russian foreign holdings in retaliation for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Those billions have been sitting untapped as the war grinds on, now in its third year, while officials from multiple countries have debated the legality of sending the money to Ukraine. More than two-thirds of Russia’s immobilized central bank funds are located in the EU.

Using the assets to help Ukraine “would make clear that Russia cannot win by prolonging the war and would incentivize it to come to the table to negotiate a just peace with Ukraine,” Yellen said.

The idea of using Russia’s frozen assets has gained traction lately as continued allied funding for Ukraine becomes more uncertain and the U.S. Congress is in a stalemate over providing more support. But there are tradeoffs since the weaponization of global finance could harm the U.S. dollar’s standing as the world’s dominant currency.

Yellen said Tuesday that it is “extremely unlikely” that tapping the frozen funds would harm the dollar’s standing in the global economy “especially given the uniqueness of the situation where Russia is brazenly violating international norms. Realistically there are not alternatives to the dollar, euro and yen,” Yellen said.

John Kirby, President Joe Biden’s national security spokesman, said at a White House press briefing Tuesday that “we still believe Russia needs to be responsible for the damage” brought onto Ukraine by “exploring the option of using those frozen assets.”

He said “we still need more legislative authorities from Congress” to spend the immobilized funds, and “we have got to have our coalition partners to come along with us.”

Bipartisan legislation circulating in Washington called the Rebuilding Economic Prosperity and Opportunity for Ukrainians Act would use assets confiscated from the Russian Central Bank and other sovereign assets for Ukraine. Leading lawmakers had tried to push it as a way to help provide Ukraine aid, but it has since not moved forward.

Earlier this month, the European Union passed a law to set aside windfall profits generated from frozen Russian central bank assets. Yellen calls that “an action I fully endorse.”

Brazil kicked off its presidency of the Group of 20 nations this month, with finance ministers meeting this week. Topics for discussion include poverty alleviation, climate change and the wars in the Gaza Strip and in Ukraine. G20 leaders are slated to gather at a Nov. 18-19 summit in Rio.

__

Associated Press reporters Josh Boak and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

National News

Associated Press

Arizona man sold firearms to undercover FBI agent for mass shooting, indictment says

PHOENIX (AP) — A firearms dealer in Arizona sold weapons to an undercover federal agent he believed would help him carry out his plan for a mass shooting targeting minorities, an attack that he hoped would “incite a race war,” according to a federal grand jury indictment. Mark Adams Prieto was indicted Tuesday by the […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Neil Goldschmidt, former Oregon governor who confessed to sex with a minor in the 1970s, has died

Neil Goldschmidt, a former Oregon governor whose confession that he had sex with a 14-year-old girl in the 1970s blackened what had been a nearly sterling reputation, has died. He was 83. Goldschmidt died at his Portland home on Wednesday, The Oregonian reported, according to family members. The newspaper said the reported cause was heart […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Man charged with robbing a California bank was released from prison a day earlier, prosecutors say

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A man charged with taking three people hostage while robbing a Southern California bank last month had been released from prison a day earlier, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. The 53-year-old was indicted on robbery charges after investigators said he claimed to have a gun, jumped over the teller counter and […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

South Carolina man pleads guilty in federal court to fatally shooting Virginia police officer

ABINGDON, Va. (AP) — A South Carolina man pleaded guilty to federal charges Wednesday in the shooting death of a police officer in southwest Virginia in 2021. Michael Donivan White, 36, of Cross, South Carolina, had already pleaded guilty to first-degree murder charges in state court. The federal counts include drug charges and causing the […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Democrats in Congress say federal mediators should let airline workers strike when it’s ‘necessary’

A group of 32 senators say federal mediators should speed up labor negotiations between airlines and their flight attendants and other workers, even granting them permission to go on strike “as necessary.” The lawmakers said Wednesday that airlines feel no pressure to reach contract agreements quickly because federal law makes it difficult for airline workers […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Tennessee sheriff indicted for profiting from inmate labor, misusing funds

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The sheriff of a rural Tennessee county illegally profited from the work of jail inmates under his supervision and housed dozens of them in a home outside of the prison without permission, officials said Wednesday. Gibson County Sheriff Paul Thomas was indicted in May in Gibson and Davidson counties on 22 […]

6 hours ago

Yellen urges world leaders to ‘unlock’ frozen Russian Central Bank assets and send them to Ukraine