Legislation set to be introduced on Thursday would use assets seized from Russian and Belarusian oligarchs to fund U.S. humanitarian aid to Ukraine, lawmakers' latest effort to penalize wealthy elites who support Moscow's war machine.
The bill from Rep. Tim Burchett (R., Tenn.) seeks to offset the cost of U.S. humanitarian aid projects by targeting the wealthy elites who support and aid Russian president Vladimir Putin as he continues his bloody invasion of Ukraine, according to a copy of the legislation obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. The bill would make all assets seized from Russia and Belarus available to the federal government.
"There would not be a humanitarian crisis in Ukraine if Vladimir Putin had refrained from starting this war," Burchett told the Free Beacon. "Russia is responsible for its army's vile attacks on evacuation convoys, hospitals, and apartment buildings that are causing enormous suffering among innocent Ukrainians. The oligarchs who profit off of Putin's murderous regime should be the ones who pay for humanitarian aid to Ukraine, not American citizens who are burdened by inflated gas prices."
As Western sanctions, including an unprecedented ban on the import of Russian oil, seek to cripple Russia's economy, lawmakers are now looking to target the wealthiest citizens who are profiting from the war and giving Putin cover. Burchett's bill follows similar actions by European countries that have seized property, including yachts and other high-price items, from Russian and Belarusian elites.
Dubbed the Confiscating Corrupt Criminal Proceeds Act, Burchett's bill would use civil asset forfeiture avenues to target oligarchs already sanctioned by the United States as a result of Moscow's war effort. These seized assets would then be channeled toward humanitarian programs operated by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is running aid missions inside Ukraine.
Burchett's bill is likely to attract the support of both Republicans and Democrats who want the United States to take a tougher approach to sanctions that go beyond the ones currently imposed.
The Treasury Department last week "intensified pressure on Russia by sanctioning numerous Russian elites and their family members," according to a statement.
Those sanctioned include Alisher Burkhanovich Usmanov, one of Moscow's wealthiest businessmen, and Nikolay Petrovich Tokarev, a longtime Putin ally who served with him in the Soviet KGB. The White House described the new sanctions as targeting an "expansive list of Putin's cronies and their family members." Already, Usmanov has had his superyacht seized, as well as his private jet.
At least 19 Russian oligarchs and 47 of their family members and close associates have been hit with U.S. sanctions since the war began, and more are likely to be added in the coming days and weeks.
The oligarchs targeted by these sanctions "continue to provide direct and indirect support to the Government of the Russian Federation through their business empires, wealth, and other resources," according to the Treasury Department. Family members of these elites were included in the sanctions, as well as businesses operated by these individuals.
The European Union also is stepping up its sanctions on Russian and Belarusian elites. The European Commission announced this week that it is banning three Belarusian banks from the international financial system and adding several more oligarchs to the EU blacklist.