EU Can 'Transfer' Russia's Frozen Billions to Compensate Ukraine: Official

European Union (EU) Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said on Saturday that money from frozen Russian assets might be used to compensate Ukraine amid the invasion of the Eastern European country.

Reynders told German media group Funke that the EU froze $16.9 billion (17 billion euros) worth of Russian assets, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported. The figure increased from the $13.7 billion (13.8 billion euros) worth of frozen assets that the commissioner announced in July. Reynders at the time said that the EU froze assets that belonged to Russian oligarchs and "other entities" in five countries.

"So far, the assets of 90 people have been frozen, more than 17 billion euros in seven member states, including 2.2 billion euros in Germany," he said on Saturday, according to AFP. "If it is criminal money confiscated by the EU, it is possible to transfer it to a compensation fund for Ukraine."

With some Ukrainian officials calling for the money to be used to rebuild Ukraine after the mass destruction that was caused by Russia, Reynders said on Saturday that "this amount is far from being sufficient to finance reconstruction."

EU Can 'Transfer' Russia's Frozen Billions to-rebuild-Ukraine
Above, European Union Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders (far right) is seen on May 25 in Brussels. Reynders said Saturday that money from frozen Russian assets might be used to compensate Ukraine. Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen suggested a similar idea during a July press conference in Strasbourg, France, when she said that they are working on a "legal framework" that would allow them to use the frozen assets to rebuild Ukraine.

"I think it is a matter of justice to consider this issue," she said.

Parts of the country have already seen significant damage from Russia's invasion, with the City Council in Mariupol, announcing at the time that preliminary estimates indicate restoration could cost $10 billion for that city alone.

Meanwhile on Saturday, Reynders said that the $298.9 million (300 billion euros) that the EU froze from the Russian Central Bank could be used as a "guarantee" until Moscow voluntarily takes part in rebuilding its Eastern European neighbor.

"From my point of view, it is at least possible to keep these 300 billion euros as a guarantee until Russia voluntarily participates in the reconstruction of Ukraine," he added.

In a separate interview with Hamburger Abendblatt, Reynders said that he is "reasonably sure" that Russians suspected of committing war crimes in Ukraine would be called to trials at the International Criminal Court (ICC) this year, according to Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty on Saturday.

"If prosecutors want to start at the highest level, let them do it," he said.

European countries and the United States have launched a number of sanctions against Russia in late February in response to the war in Ukraine. Sanctions were launched against the country's energy market in an effort to weaken the Kremlin's economy.

Since 2014, the year Moscow annexed Crimea, over 1,200 people, including oligarchs and Russian President Vladimir Putin, have had their assets frozen. They were also banned from entering the EU, according to AFP.

Newsweek reached out to the Russian foreign affairs ministry for comment.