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Sanctioned Russian Assets

Volume 729: debated on Tuesday 14 March 2023

4. Whether he is taking steps to seize and repurpose sanctioned Russian assets to assist the reconstruction of Ukraine. (904052)

The simple principle is that Russia should pay for the harm and damage that it has caused. We must ensure that any proposals are robust, safe and compliant with domestic and international law, and we will of course consider all lawful routes to ensure that Russia pays for the damage and harm it has caused.

The UK Government have frozen Russian assets, but the EU has already set out a plan to shift such assets into a fund to help to rebuild Ukraine, and Canada has already passed a law to do the same. What is stopping us? Why can we not do the same?

Both those projects are still in train; neither has come to a conclusion and no country has liquidated frozen assets. As I say, anything that we do needs to be in complete compliance with both domestic and international law.

Reconstruction of Ukraine will also require rehabilitating and helping women. In the wake of what we have done on preventing sexual violence in conflict, what steps will we now be able to take to help those who have been victims of sexual violence?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work he has done in this area for many years. I am proud of the fact that the UK has been at the forefront of the campaigns for preventing sexual violence in conflict. My noble Friend Lord Ahmad organised a conference on this very issue last year. We must ensure that the perpetrators, the facilitators and those ordering this brutality are all held to account, and we will work with our international partners to ensure that that happens.

Ukraine’s 2023 budget alone has a $38 billion gap, and the cost of the damage done to critical infrastructure runs into the hundreds of billions. There is one party responsible: Russia. We support the Government’s plans for a reconstruction conference this summer, but we cannot have any dragging of the heels in making Russia foot the bill for its barbarous war. We have heard about other international examples, so when will the Foreign Secretary set out a clear plan to seize—not just freeze—Russian state assets and repurpose them?

The sad but simple truth is that it is not as easy as the hon. Gentleman’s question implies. The fact is that there have been conflicts around the world before and there have been perpetrators before, but there has never been a seizure of assets. As I say, we need to ensure that we are compliant with both domestic and international law. We will look carefully at the proposals being explored and tested by our close friends and allies, but I can reassure him and the House that we will ensure, working in close co-operation with our friends internationally, that Russia pays for the brutality that we are seeing in Ukraine.