Ministry plans bill to use frozen Russian assets in Ukraine compensation

Foreign Affairs Ministry building in Tallinn.
Foreign Affairs Ministry building in Tallinn. Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Planned legislation which, if it were to pass at the Riigikogu could allow Ukrainian war damages to be compensated for from the proceeds of frozen assets of Russian origin, could set an example to the rest of Europe, it is hoped.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says it plans to have the bill ready within a matter of months.

Merli Veski, who heads up the ministry's legal department, said that should Ukraine file a claim for damages against Russian Federation but the Russians refuse to pay, or to pay in full, frozen assets could be utilized.

Veski told ERR's radio news that: "If [an agreement] is not met, then we will examine legal options to potentially use frozen assets, as an advance payment for damages."

Veski noted that a pan-EU solution is preferable, but is time-consuming, whereas the principle could be enshrined in Estonian domestic law more quickly, thus blazing the trail for the rest of the union.

Veski said that this bill would be ready "in the coming months", adding a preliminary draft prepared by the Ministry of Justice was in hand, though was not finalized yet and so could not be made public.

Estonia's estimated holdings in assets of Russian origin, frozen after that country's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, now in its second year, run into a reported sum of tens of millions of euros.

Around €350 billion is needed to help in the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine, as things stand, according to an estimate made last autumn.

The requisitioning of frozen assets and their use for another purpose will likely encounter principles of international law whereby as state, no matter how obnoxiously it may have acted, retains legal immunity.

While the foreign and justice minister posts are currently held by Isamaa politicians, the party is not involved in ongoing coalition talks. However, Ukraine has been one issue that has united Estonia's political parties, meaning the change of minister once a coalition deal is signed, should not jeopardize the drafting of the law in and of itself.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mirjam Mäekivi

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