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Europe's "Freeze And Seize" Hits Russian Oligarchs For 12.5 Billion

According to the EU Commission, the amount of confiscated Russian assets has doubled since April, German daily Die Welt reveals, including yachts, real estate, artwork and more.

Yachts moored in the marina, Monaco​

Yachts moored in the marina, Monaco

Christoph B. Schiltz

BRUSSELS — The European Union has made significant progress in sanctioning Russian oligarchs, nearly doubling the seizure and freezing of assets in the last month alone. So far, more than 12.5 billion euros worth of luxury yachts, helicopters, paintings, real estate property and other assets have been seized or frozen from people on sanctions lists for supporting Putin's war of aggression, a top EU official has told Die Welt.

The European Union has collected half of this amount since April alone. "The amount of frozen assets of Russian oligarchs has almost doubled from 6.7 billion euros in April to currently just over 12.5 billion euros," the European Commission spokesman for justice Christian Wiegand confirmed.

The jump in frozen assets was largely due to the fact that numerous assets were found and seized in the past few weeks, especially in Germany.

Assets from more than 1,100 entities

In March, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders, on behalf of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, set up a special unit ("Freeze and Seize Taskforce") to coordinate the activities of EU countries against sanctioned individuals and to track down the assets of oligarchs. The EU Commission and national law enforcement and financial authorities have since worked closely together. The task force presented figures for the first time on April 8.

“EU sanctions result in the freezing of all assets and economic resources owned or controlled by sanctioned individuals. The assets of more than 1,100 people and bodies ('entities') are currently frozen," the spokesman for the EU Commission authority said. He stressed that the reserves of the Central Bank of Russia and related transactions worth 196 billion euros were also blocked.

Turn over every stone.

At the end of May, Brussels presented a proposal to allow frozen Russian money to be seized. According to the proposal, this money could be used for the reconstruction of Ukraine. "We should turn over every stone for this – if possible, also Russian assets that we have frozen," von der Leyen emphasized at the time. But that will probably not be so easy.

Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) said Germany is open to a debate on the use of seized Russian assets for the reconstruction of Ukraine. However, he said a distinction must be made between state funds – such as the central bank – and private funds. "In our constitution there are guarantees for private assets," Lindner said.

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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