Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Polish counterpart talked sanctions enforcement and confiscation of Russian assets on Friday as the two leaders mapped out a common strategy ahead of next month’s NATO summit.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki praised Canada for introducing legislation that permits the forfeited assets of Russian oligarchs and state-owned enterprises to be sold, with the proceeds going to Ukraine to pay for reconstruction.
His kind words come two weeks after a Canadian Senate report questioned the effectiveness of Canada’s sanctions regime.
“Right now, we [talked] even more about not allowing Russia to bypass sanctions to circumvent sanctions,” Morawiecki told reporters during a joint media availability with Trudeau Friday afternoon.
“This is also a critical challenge.”
WATCH: Polish PM talks about tightening enforcement of sanctions on Russia
Morawiecki made a point of thanking Trudeau for raising forfeiture of seized assets during their meeting — “in particular assets of the Russian and central bank assets of the Russian Federation, because this empire of evil, [the perpetrators of] this brutal invasion [have] to bear consequences for their aggression.”
Last year, Canada became the first Western nation to pass legislation allowing the proceeds of seized Russian assets to be turned over to Ukraine.
Shortly afterwards, the Biden administration in the U.S. passed a law that would allow some assets seized by the U.S. Justice Department to be transferred to the government in Kyiv. Earlier this spring, U.S. justice officials pushed to expand the criteria for transferring seized assets to Ukraine.
In December, Canada began the process for transferring about $26 million belonging to a sanctioned company owned by oligarch Roman Abramovich. A massive Russian cargo plane, grounded at Toronto Pearson International Airport, was confiscated in preparation for turning it over to Ukraine.
Last winter, the European Commission pledged to “step up its work towards the use of Russia’s frozen assets to support Ukraine’s reconstruction.” Poland and its three Baltic neighbours also have pressed publicly for action on turning over sanctioned assets to Ukraine “as soon as possible.”
Poland recently introduced legislation to further sharpen its sanctions regime against Russia if it believes EU penalties are not strong enough, and to hand over seized assets.
“My government supports this very much,” Morawiecki said. “We [are going] through legislative procedure right now in our parliament to seize some of the Russian assets and to deploy them for reconstruction of Ukraine.”
Morawiecki also called on NATO to lay out a plan for Ukraine to join the western military alliance without delay.
“Poland is advocating for relatively quick accession of Ukraine to NATO. We understand that not all the member states of NATO are in agreement with this,” he said, adding that Poland hopes the issue will be a major focus of the upcoming NATO leaders’ summit in Vilnius, Lithuania next month.
For his part, Trudeau said the summit must present a united front against Russia.
“The focus at NATO is going to be continuing to stand strong and unequivocally for those values that pull us together — the rule of law, the international rules-based order and ensuring that Russia does not profit from its illegal invasion of a peaceful neighbour,” he said.
Canada has stationed combat engineers in Poland as part of a training mission for Ukrainian troops.
In an exclusive interview with CBC News Network’s Rosemary Barton Live, Morawiecki said he has talked to Trudeau, U.S. President Joe Biden and other allies about establishing a permanent base for allied troops in Poland — similar to South Korea.
“It is important for the stability of the region, the entire European Union,” Morawiecki told host Rosemary Barton.
The Polish prime minister didn’t say if he received support from his Canadian counterpart for such a base.