29 Dec 2022 12:40

Western partners reluctant to unfreeze Russian assets, intent on minimizing such opportunities - Siluanov

MOSCOW. Dec 29 (Interfax) - The Belgian regulator's decision to unfreeze the assets of Russian private investors was made under pressure from lawsuits, without much desire and in a way that minimizes the possibility of them being unblocked, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said.

"This was done, I think that after [the Moscow Exchange group's central depositary] NSD filed lawsuits in the relevant courts, and the courts began to consider these issues," he said in an interview with the Rossiya 24 TV channel.

National Settlement Depository or NSD on August 12 filed a lawsuit with the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg to overturn EU sanctions. The purpose of the lawsuit was to prove the illegality and groundlessness of the NSD's inclusion in EU sanctions lists, as a result of which Russian and foreign investors have suffered.

Commenting on the Belgian regulator's decision of December 22 to issue allow the release of Russian non-sanctioned investors frozen at the Euroclear depository, Siluanov said: "The Belgian side is now doing it in such a way as to minimize the resolution of issues regarding frozen assets."

He said very little time had been allotted for this - until January 7, and that it was hard to make contact with the Western on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum -- private investors will not get through to the Belgian regulators.

"So it is clear that this is being done without particular desire," Siluanov said.

The mutual desire of the Western and Russian sides is also necessary to resolve issues related to the unfreezing of Russian sovereign assets in return for Russia unfreezing the assets of Western companies holding Russian securities.

The exchange of frozen assets "requires a decision of the two parties and the desire of the two parties, which is the most important thing," Siluanov said.

"If there's a desire from the other side, then we'll be ready for dialogue," he said.

"If Western countries are ready to talk about this with their Russian colleagues, then we will find a way and means to decide on the release of such assets on our part," he said.

"If there's a determination then we'll find a way to unfreeze them, in any case, we are ready for this," he said, adding this was a two-way process.

The Central Bank of Russia said this week that it was not particularly optimistic about the prospects of unfreezing the assets of non-sanctioned Russian investors at Euroclear and Clearstream after the NSD received permission from Luxembourg and Belgium to unblock foreign assets.

In a clarification published on the CBR website the Russian regulator wrote: "The permits issued do not yet guarantee that Russian investors will again be able to dispose of blocked assets and receive payments on them."

"The short timeframe, vague wording in permits and the complexity of the unblocking procedure do not give confidence that Western regulators are ready to ensure the right of Russian investors to dispose of their property," the CBR said.

For the time being, investors are advised to await notifications from their brokers and depositories about the results of the unblocking of assets.