Congress Advances Bills Targeting Russian Oligarchs & War Criminals

December 23, 2022

A bipartisan group of Congressional lawmakers have advanced a pair of bills that would grant the Department of Justice additional tools to go after Russian oligarchs and alleged war criminals.

One bill, the Justice for Victims of War Crimes Act, would broaden the DOJ’s jurisdiction by allowing the Department to bring war crimes charges against suspects in the U.S.—regardless of where in the world the alleged crime occurred. It passed in the House on Thursday after winning Senate approval on Wednesday. President Biden is expected to sign it into law.

The other bill would allow the DOJ to transfer Russian oligarchs’ forfeited assets in some situations to Ukraine. It passed in the Senate as an amendment to the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill. Those assets would first be transferred to the State Department, which would disperse the funds as foreign aid. 

The omnibus includes nearly $45 billion of additional military, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. The House must pass the sweeping legislation by midnight Friday in order to avoid a partial government shutdown ahead of the holidays. 

The pair of bills come one day after the Biden Administration unveiled new curbs on technology exports to Russia’s Wagner military group in a bid to further choke off supplies to the contractor over its role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The contractor was added to a trade blacklist in 2017 after Russia annexed Crimea. It will now be labeled a military end user and face tough new curbs on access to technology made anywhere in the world with U.S. equipment.

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