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Biden seeks $33bn to support Ukraine

U.S. President Joe Biden during a speech in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 21, 2022. Photo: Reuters

President Joe Biden has asked Congress on Thursday for $33 billion to support Ukraine – a dramatic escalation of U.S. funding for the war against Russia – as well as new legal tools to siphon assets from Russian oligarchs.

According to Reuters, the vast funding request includes over $20 billion for weapons, ammunition and other military assistance, as well as $8.5 billion in direct economic assistance to the government and $3 billion in humanitarian and food security aid.

“We need this bill to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom,” Biden said at the White House. “The cost of this fight – it’s not cheap – but caving to aggression is going to be more costly.”

Biden is also seeking the ability to seize more money from Russian oligarchs to pay for the war effort.

His proposal would have lawmakers hand his administration new capabilities, letting U.S. officials seize more oligarchs’ assets, give the cash from those seizures to Ukraine and further criminalise sanctions dodging, the White House said.

Russian oligarch Alexei Mordashov’s yacht docked in Italy was seized by police last month. Photo: BBC

The steps include letting the Justice Department use the strict U.S. racketeering law once deployed against the mafia, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations (RICO) Act, to build cases against people who evade sanctions.

Biden also wants to give prosecutors more time to build such cases by extending the statute of limitations on money laundering prosecutions to 10 years, instead of 5.

He would also make it a criminal act to hold money knowingly taken from corrupt dealings with Russia, according to a summary of the proposals.

The measures are part of U.S. efforts to isolate and punish Russia for its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, as well as to help Kyiv recover from a war that has reduced cities to rubble and forced more than 5 million people to flee abroad.

Writing by Muzha Kucha