Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has stated the Russia will reciprocate the arrests of its assets in Europe. “Reciprocity can be positive, but it can also be negative. In this case, reciprocity will be negative,” said Lavrov in an interview with RBC at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum.
According to Lavrov, Russian “economic operators” will appeal to Russian courts to arrest the assets of foreign companies that have government support in Russia. Lavrov did not specify what “economic operators” he was referring to.
“We are currently trying to halt, first and foremost, the arrests of our diplomatic accounts,” said Lavrov.
In connection with a lawsuit brought against the Russian government by former shareholders of the oil company Yukos, Belgium, France and Austria have frozen the assets of the Russian state over the past few days.
On June 17, all Russian organizations in Belgium were notified that their assets had been arrested, with the exception of diplomatic property. These assets amount to 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion). The next day, French police froze the assets of the Russian state news agency Rossiya Segodnya. According to the news website Gazeta.ru, Belgium and France have also issued court orders to seize the assets of TASS, another state-owned Russian media outlet. On June 18, the head of the Russian bank VTB, Andrei Kostin, announced that French authorities froze the assets of one of its subsidiaries.
Russian authorities have stated the claims made by European courts are unfounded, and that Russia will not pay the compensation. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has communicated its protest to the Belgian ambassador to Russia for the asset freezes.
In July 2014, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that former Yukos shareholders should receive 1.86 billion euros ($21.2 billion) in compensation, as the Russian government had allegedly forced the company out of business in 2006 in order to take over oil production in the country. The ruling came into effect on December 16, and Russia had six months to draw up a compensation plan. In June 2015, the Council of Europe demanded to see a schedule of compensation payments. In addition, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague ruled in July of 2014 that Russia must pay $50 billion in compensation to former Yukos shareholders. Russia has consistently refused to adhere by the rulings.