At the meeting with 15 EU commissioners in Kyiv on Thursday, the Ukrainian government reiterated its demand that the EU must ensure that the Russian aggressor pays for the destruction he has caused.

That is meant quite literally.

The Russian assets, which the EU has frozen since spring, are to be used to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure.

Werner Mussler

Business correspondent in Brussels.

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Henrik Kafsack

Business correspondent in Brussels.

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According to official figures from Brussels, there is a lot of money at stake: According to the EU Commission, the Russian central bank's foreign exchange reserves of around 300 billion euros have been frozen in the EU.

In addition, there are around 19 billion euros in private wealth, mostly from oligarchs that the EU has frozen.

The estimated 600 billion damage that Russia has caused in Ukraine cannot be covered with this, but a significant part.

Politically, there is a lot of sympathy for the idea in Brussels.

EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced in November that she would examine how the frozen Russian assets could be used for reconstruction.

The responsible Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders has been examining for a while now.

"The political will is there," says the commission.

As an aggressor, Russia must bear financial responsibility

Latvian Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis told the FAZ this week that Russia is the clear aggressor, started the war and must be held accountable for it.

Lithuanian Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius adds that every day Russia is destroying new Ukrainian infrastructure.

"We will be the first to help rebuild Ukraine, and the cost of doing so is increasing every day," he recently told the Financial Times.

He was frightened by the prospect that the EU would not be able to use the frozen assets.

Council President Charles Michel takes the same line.

He calls for "more ambition" from the member states in the use of Russian assets.

It's a question of "justice and fairness," Michel said last week.

Member States would have to "deliver" despite the existing legal difficulties.

But that is not to be expected in the near future.

In order to avoid accusations of inaction, the ambassadors of the EU states agreed on Wednesday to set up an ad hoc committee.

Officially, he should be used in the coming week and probably only after the EU summit on 9/10.

meet for the first time in February.

The committee lives up to the cliché that you set up a working group when you don't know what to do.

Because the use of frozen Russian assets is likely to fail due to high legal hurdles and practical difficulties - but also due to political reservations.

No state may sit in judgment on another

Legally, the project is primarily opposed to international law, more precisely the principle of state immunity.

It is based on the independence and equality of sovereign states and means that no state is allowed to sit in court over another state.

"This principle is a very old component of customary international law," explains Marc Bungenberg, a specialist in European and international law at Saarland University.

It is protected in court.

Juliane Kokott, Germany's Advocate General at the European Court of Justice, reiterated in Vienna last week that a seizure or confiscation of Russia's central bank assets was "not justified".

If the EU explores "new ways" to help Ukraine against Russia, it "must still respect the fundamental legal principles on which it is built".

The legal services of the EU Commission and the Council of Ministers argue similarly.