Putin calls G7 deal on frozen Russian assets for Ukraine loan ‘theft’

Western countries have agreed to use interest on frozen Russian assets to give Ukraine a $50bn loan.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin
President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a meeting with foreign ministry officials in Moscow [Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin denounced an agreement by Western countries to provide Ukraine with a loan package using frozen Russian assets and pledged retaliation.

Speaking at a meeting on Friday with officials from the foreign ministry, Putin said leaders in the West were trying to come up with “some kind of legal basis” for the asset freezes, “but despite all the trickery theft is still theft and will not go unpunished”.

He added Moscow’s treatment was proof that “anyone” could be next and punished by an asset freeze.

Putin’s comments came after the Group of Seven (G7) members agreed on an outline deal for a $50bn loan package for Ukraine using interest from Russian sovereign assets frozen after Putin sent his troops into the neighbouring country in February 2022.

The G7 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. The European Union also participates in all discussions.

Following the announcement at the G7 annual summit in Italy, US President Joe Biden said the frozen assets agreement was a “significant outcome” and “another reminder to Putin that we’re not backing down”.

The details of the agreement are expected to be finalised in the coming weeks, and the money is expected to reach Ukraine by the end of the year.

However, Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed the deal on Friday, saying it was “just pieces of paper”.

“These agreements are about nothing. They do not have legal force,” Zakharova was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying.

Ukraine war

Putin also laid out a series of conditions to end the war in Ukraine, including the country dropping its NATO ambitions and the withdrawal of its forces from the four Ukrainian regions that Russia claimed in a referendum the West and Kyiv called “illegal”.

“The conditions are very simple,” the Russian president said ahead a Ukraine peace summit starting on Saturday in Switzerland to be attended by representatives of more than 90 nations and organisations.

“As soon as they declare in Kyiv they are ready for such a decision and begin a real withdrawal of troops from these regions [including Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia], and also officially announce the abandonment of their plans to join NATO – on our side, immediately, literally at the same minute, an order will follow to cease fire and begin negotiations,” he said.

“I repeat, we will do this immediately. Naturally, we will simultaneously guarantee the unhindered and safe withdrawal of Ukrainian units and formations.”

Shortly afterwards, Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak dismissed Putin’s conditions.

“It’s all a complete sham. Therefore – once again – get rid of illusions and stop taking seriously the ‘proposals of Russia’ that are offensive to common sense,” Podolyak wrote on social media.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry also said Putin’s statement was aimed at “misleading” the international community.

Washington dismissed Putin’s remarks as well. “He is not in any position to dictate to Ukraine what they must do to bring about peace,” Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Austin also suggested NATO will not accept new members soon despite Ukraine’s push to join the alliance. “I don’t see any desire or indication that we will pursue expansion at any point in the near future.”

Still, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance will play a greater role in coordinating military aid to Ukraine – an effort currently led by the US.

“These efforts do not make NATO a party to the conflict but they will enhance our support to Ukraine to uphold its right to self-defence,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.

‘Point of no return’

In separate comments, Putin said the world had reached a “point of no return”, adding the collapse of the “Western model” of global security required a new and more stable system in its place.

“Obviously, we are witnessing the collapse of the Euro-Atlantic security system. Today it simply does not exist, it needs to be essentially created anew,” Putin said.

“All this requires us, together with our partners, with all interested countries, and there are many of them, to work out our own options for ensuring security in Eurasia, proposing them then for wider international discussion.”

The Russian president added his country is open to discussing a new security system with everyone, including the US-led NATO military alliance.

“It is important to proceed from the fact the future security architecture is open to all Eurasian countries that wish to take part in its creation. ‘To all’ means European and NATO countries too, of course,” he said.

“We live on the same continent. No matter what happens, you cannot change the geography. We will have to coexist and work together one way or another.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies