President Joe Biden’s administration took another step toward punishing Russia for its wartime conduct, while also funding Ukraine’s military efforts.
On Thursday, the White House said its request for $33 billion in additional Ukraine aid will be paired with a comprehensive legislative package that enhances the U.S. government’s authority to hold Russian oligarchs accountable for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which dates back to Feb. 24.
The proposed package includes a bipartisan piece of legislation from Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
Under the plan, U.S. officials would be empowered to redirect funds from ”seized Russian assets” to support Ukraine’s reconstruction efforts.
According to the White House, the package would fortify the U.S. agencies’ ability to use forfeited oligarch funds to remediate harm inflicted on Ukraine by Russian forces.
To accomplish this all-encompassing initiative, the Departments of Justice, Treasury and State would work together to use any funds seized ”because of corruption or sanctions,” along with exporting control violations to pay for humanitarian assistance, citing a report from The Hill.
”We must hold Russian oligarchs accountable for enabling [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s egregious, lawless war,” Bennet said in a statement,regarding the Repurposing Elite Luxuries Into Emergency Funds for Ukraine Act, or RELIEF Act.
”I look forward to working with President Biden, Attorney General [Merrick] Garland, and my Senate colleagues to get this done for the Ukrainian people, who have inspired the world with their resilience and resolute defense of democracy.”
Under the bill, the fund would he administered by the State Department in consultation with the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the administration would have to make regular reports to Congress on assets seized, funds transferred and assistance delivered to Ukraine.
Earlier Thursday, a Russian official pledged a Kremlin response to the ”idiotic” U.S. sanctions against Moscow.
The warning occurred when Maria Zakharova, director of the Information and Press Department of Russia’s Foreign Ministry, said the unfriendly actions of the U.S. and Britain would not go ”unanswered.”
Citing the Russian newspaper Izvestia, via Newsweek, Zakharova said on the ”Solovyov LIVE” program: ”All the measures that they will take, even of such an idiotic nature, they will be developed and continued. … We, of course, as you know, do not leave anything unanswered, and they must understand this.”
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