West weighs allowing Russian oligarchs to buy way out of sanctions

BERLIN — Western allies are considering whether to allow Russian oligarchs to buy their way out of sanctions and use the money to rebuild Ukraine, according to government officials familiar with the matter.

Canadian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland proposed the idea at a G-7 finance ministers’ meeting in Germany last week.

Freeland raised the issue after oligarchs spoke to her about it, one official says. The Canadian minister knows some Russian oligarchs from her time as a journalist in Moscow.

The official says the Ukrainians were aware of the discussions. The official says it’s also in the West’s interests to have prominent oligarchs dissociate themselves with Russian President Vladimir Putin while at the same time providing funding for Ukraine.

“We would not be talking about this if there wasn’t some comfort on the part of the Ukrainians,” the official says. “We need to know that it works for them, too.”

The proposal was raised in the context of providing additional money to Ukraine and how the frozen funds and assets of oligarchs could be a source of funds.

At this point, it is just an idea, the official says, but Western allies have expressed interest. European Union officials have talked about the need to look at different and new avenues of confiscating assets and providing money to Ukraine.

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