By Katharine Jackson
(Reuters) -U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on Sunday he would act on a Biden administration request to add provisions to a $33 billion Ukraine aid package to allow the United States to seize Russian oligarchs’ assets and send money from their sale directly to Ukraine.
“Ukraine needs all the help it can get and, at the same time, we need all the assets we can put together to give Ukraine the aid it needs,” Schumer said at a media briefing in New York City.
President Joe Biden asked Congress to approve $33 billion in assistance for Kyiv on Thursday in what would mark a dramatic escalation of U.S. funding for Ukraine more than two months after it was invaded by Russia.
His administration also asked lawmakers to include provisions to help it seize more assets, liquidate them and send Ukraine the money.
Schumer said the provisions being added would streamline the forfeiture process for oligarch-owned properties in the United States, while allowing for expedited reviews in federal court, as requested by the White House.
They would also make it a criminal offense to knowingly possess proceeds obtained from “corrupt dealings” with the Russian government, he said.
“It’s time for sanctioned Russian oligarchs to be held accountable for the ill-gotten wealth that they have received,” Schumer said.
The U.S. House of Representatives signaled its support for giving the administration more power to target oligarchs profiting from their association with Russian President Vladimir Putin when it approved non-binding legislation on Wednesday.
The $33 billion in funding for Ukraine, which lawmakers have said they want to approve quickly, would be used to provide Ukraine with weapons, ammunition and other military assistance, as well as direct economic and humanitarian aid.
(Reporting by Katharine Jackson in Washington; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Daniel Wallis)