While visiting Kyiv on Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced another pledge of funds to Ukraine worth $1 billion in military and other financial aid. Included in that sum is $5.4 million in seized assets belonging to a Russian oligarch and this will go toward veterans’ services.
Blinken declared “those who have enabled Putin’s war of aggression should pay for it.” This is the first time sanctioned Russian oligarchs’ assets will be included in an assistance package for the Ukrainian government.
Washington’s top diplomat discussed how deeply moved he was visiting a military cemetery with his Ukrainian counterpart. Although – on the eve of Kyiv’s failed counteroffensive which has yielded massive losses – Blinken actively discouraged peace talks, which Beijing has attempted to broker, ruling out any potential ceasefire.
It was widely understood from the Discord leaks as well as contemporary media reports that, before Kyiv launched its offensive, US and other Western military officials knew Ukrainian forces were woefully under-equipped and under-trained to retake territory controlled by Moscow. After seeing soldiers killed and wounded by the hundreds of thousands, US officials are nevertheless disappointed to find that Ukraine is becoming “casualty averse” as the New York Times reported recently.
The frozen funds which have been transferred to the veterans’ programs likely belong to Konstantin Malofeyev, the banking, telecommunications, and media tycoon. In May, Attorney General Merrick Garland boasted that $5.4 million in Malofeyev’s assets had been handed over to the State Department to fund Ukraine’s reconstruction and “remediate the harms of Russia’s unjust war.”
Garland added, in a statement, that “while this represents the United States’ first transfer of forfeited Russian funds for the rebuilding of Ukraine, it will not be the last.”
According to AFP news agency, Malofeyev was “indicted in April 2022 for violating sanctions related to the 2014 Russian-backed secession war in Ukraine’s Donbas region and its takeover of Crimea.” Following a 2014 US-backed coup in Kyiv, the new government launched a war against the ethnic Russians seeking autonomy in the Donbas, which killed 14,000 people.
Along with the indictment, the US seized control of the money which was largely an investment Malofeyev made in a Texas bank. Moreover, as the EU is planning on using frozen Russian funds to pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction, this may include tens of billions in frozen central bank assets.
Connor Freeman is the assistant editor and a writer at the Libertarian Institute, primarily covering foreign policy. He is a co-host on the Conflicts of Interest podcast. His writing has been featured in media outlets such as Antiwar.com, Counterpunch, and the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. He has also appeared on Liberty Weekly, Around the Empire, and Parallax Views. You can follow him on Twitter @FreemansMind96.