Kremlin Slams Belgium, French Seizure of Russian Assets

Kremlin Slams Belgium,  French Seizure of Russian AssetsKremlin Slams Belgium,  French Seizure of Russian Assets

The Russian government on Thursday strongly condemned the freezing of Russian accounts in France and Belgium as part of an effort to enforce a $50 billion judgment for shutting down the Yukos Oil Company.

The order, issued in 2014 by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, meant Moscow needed to give a total of $50 billion in compensation to the former owners of the Russian oil giant after the Kremlin broke up the firm in 2013 over tax issues and arrested its chief executive, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Russia's Foreign Ministry on Thursday summoned Belgium's ambassador and warned that Moscow would consider taking similar action against Belgian accounts and property in Russia if the accounts of the Russian companies and diplomatic missions in Belgium were not released, AFP reported.

Russian Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said his government would challenge the seizures, considering them illegal, but he also acknowledged that Russia must be prepared for similar action elsewhere. He repeated that Russia had no intention of paying the $50 billion.

The foreign ministry said it issued a protest to Belgian Ambassador Alex Van Meeuwen, describing the freezing of the accounts as an "openly unfriendly act and gross violation of the recognized norms of international law."

The accounts frozen in Belgium include those of Russia's embassy, its missions to the European Union and NATO, and of a number of Russian companies, the ministry statement said. It made no mention of the seizures in France.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also warned that Moscow will take reciprocal action in response. “Our response would be in kind. This is inevitable. This is the only way of acting in international affairs.”