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Divisions Among Finance Ministers Flare Over Seizing Russian Assets

WorldDivisions Among Finance Ministers Flare Over Seizing Russian Assets

Divisions among the world’s top economic officials over how to use Russia’s central bank assets to support Ukraine spilled into public view on Wednesday when Bruno LeMaire, France’s finance minister, said that seizing the frozen assets would be a violation of international law.

The comments, made on the sidelines of the gathering of finance ministers of the Group of 20 nations in Brazil, came a day after Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said that seizing the assets was a possibility and suggested that there was a legal justification for doing so.

Officials from the Group 7 advanced economies have been debating for months over whether they could legally seize more than $300 billion in Russian central bank assets stashed in Western nations and use those funds to aid Ukraine. Those discussions have taken on greater urgency amid waning political support in the United States and Europe to continue to provide Ukraine with economic and military support.

Ms. Yellen, who initially had reservations about the viability of freezing or seizing Russia’s assets, offered her most explicit public support to date on Tuesday for the idea of unlocking “the value” of Russia’s immobilized assets.

“While we should act together and in a considered way, I believe there is a strong international law, economic, and moral case for moving forward,” Ms. Yellen said.

But Mr. LeMaire, who spoke just a few hours ahead of a private meeting with Ms. Yellen, pushed back on that assertion.

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