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Putin signed a decree to control the assets of two foreign companies in Russia | Russo-Ukrainian War News

The move was seen as a sign Moscow could take further action if it seized Russian assets abroad to pay for the war’s damage to Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin signed a decree temporarily taking control of the Russian subsidiaries of two foreign energy companies, suggesting Moscow could take similar action against other international companies if Russia’s overseas assets are seized.

The decree, which outlines possible retaliation if Russian assets abroad are compromised, suggests that Moscow has already taken action against the assets of Germany’s Uniper division in Russia and Finland’s Fortum Oyj.

The decree said Russia needed to take urgent measures in response to unspecified actions by the United States and other countries that were “unfriendly and in violation of international law.”

In October, European Council President Charles Michel said the EU was considering using confiscated Russian assets — frozen under sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine — to help rebuild Ukraine.

The chief executive of Russia’s state-owned bank VTB PAO said on Monday that Moscow should consider taking over Russian assets of foreign companies such as Fortum, returning them only after sanctions over the Ukraine war are lifted.

The stake in Uniper and Fortum Oyj has been temporarily controlled by Rosimushchestvo, the real estate agency of the Russian Federation government, the decree said. Rosimushchestvo said more foreign companies could find their assets under temporary Russian control, state news agency TASS reported.

“The decree does not deal with ownership issues and does not deprive the owners of their assets. External management is temporary in nature, meaning that the original owners are no longer empowered to make management decisions,” the agency was quoted by TASS news agency as saying.

In February, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Russia should bear the cost of the massive damage caused by its war on Ukraine, but also pointed to “significant legal hurdles” in confiscating mostly frozen Russian assets.

In November, the United Nations passed a resolution holding Russia responsible for its invasion of Ukraine in violation of international law and demanding compensation from Moscow for the destruction of Ukraine and the lives lost.

The resolution states that Moscow “must bear the legal consequences of all its internationally wrongful acts, including compensation for injuries, including any damages, caused by such acts”.

The temporary forfeiture of the two companies may not be a surprise.

Fortum has warned shareholders that its Russian assets could be seized.

Uniper holds an 83.73% stake in Russian subsidiary Unipro, which has been supplying gas to Germany for many years. Uniper tried to sell its stake in Unipro even before Russia invaded Ukraine. A buyer was found, but the sale was never approved by Russian authorities.

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