Tuesday

9th Aug 2022

Belgium seizes bank account of Russia's EU embassy

  • Russia's ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, who is, for other reasons, barred from entering the EU parliament (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Russia has threatened to seize Belgian assets in Russia in retaliation for Belgian seizures linked to the break-up of Russian oil firm Yukos.

The Russian foreign ministry said on Friday (19 June) that unless Belgium does a U-turn, it will “be forced to consider the adoption of adequate response measures against … the property of the embassy of Belgium in Moscow, as well as its legal entities”.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

It called Belgium’s actions an “openly unfriendly act, [a] gross violation of the universally recognised norms of international law”.

It also said the Belgian seizures threaten the “proper functioning of Russian institutions and entities” in Belgium.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, added the measures are designed to harm the image of Russia, which, also on Friday, is hosting top European CEOs at a business forum in Saint Petersburg.

The statements come after Belgian authorities froze the bank accounts of the Russian embassy to Belgium, its embassy to the EU, its mission to Nato, the state-owned Tass news agency, and Russian broadcasters VGTRK and Russia Today.

French authorities also confiscated Russian state accounts in 40 banks and some 10 Russian-owned buildings.

Lavrov said the seizures targeted its French embassy, a trade mission, and its mission to the UN heritage body, Unesco.

But he said that, unlike Belgium, France later “backed off”.

The seizures stem from a ruling, in July last year, by an arbitration court in The Hague, that Russia owes the shareholders of the defunct Yukos oil firm €44 billion in compensation.

Russia broke up the company, which used to be owned by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an oligarch-turned-reformer, 10 years ago on tax evasion grounds and parceled out its assets to friends of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

For his part, Khodorkovsky, who now lives in exile in Switzerland, said on Facebook that he is no longer a beneficiary because he gave up his shares in 2004.

He noted that, “as a Russian citizen”, he takes “great delight” in The Hague case because it “serves as a signal that robbery will not go unpunished, no matter how all-powerful the robber may seem”.

He added that it’s good for Russia, because it’s “a step towards the consolidation of property rights”, without which the Russian economy cannot prosper.

EU hopeful of Iran nuclear deal

A possible deal to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear pact is within reach, says the European Union. Washington backs the final proposals, but Tehran remains cautious.

Opinion

Let Taiwan's democracy shine brighter

Dr Ming-Yen Tsai, head of the Taipei Representative Office in the EU and Belgium, responds to EUobserver op-ed on Taiwan by the Chinese ambassador to Belgium. "Taiwan is an 'island of resilience'. That will continue to be the case."

Opinion

Supporting Taiwan 'like carrying water in a sieve'

China's ambassador to Belgium, Cao Zhongming, says the US has been distorting, obscuring and hollowing out the 'one-China' principle and unscrupulously undermining China's core interests. This is sheer double standards and a shameful act of bad faith.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us