(Moscow) The Kremlin threatened on Wednesday to “extend” the list of foreign companies targeted by “temporary” seizures of assets in Russia, a means of exerting pressure at a time when Westerners are considering using Russian assets frozen in the Russian Federation. ‘foreign.

“If necessary, the list of companies can be extended”, warned the spokesperson for the Russian presidency, Dmitry Peskov.

These remarks come the day after Vladimir Putin signed a decree with a view to taking control of two Western energy groups, the Finnish Fortum and the German Uniper. The Russian president had at the same time threatened to do the same with other companies in countries that would be tempted to seize and use Russian assets abroad.

The European Union is currently seeking to put together a plan to seize hundreds of billions of euros of Russian assets in Europe, although Brussels recognizes that the project is “not simple” from a legal point of view.

The main purpose of the Russian decree “is to establish a compensation fund for the possible application of countermeasures against the ‘illegal expropriation’ of Russian assets abroad”, said Mr. Peskov.

The announced seizures – “ a response to the aggressive actions of unfriendly countries ” – are “ temporary ”, he assured, and aim to “eliminate (potential) risks when the position of unfriendly countries will negatively affect our economy ”.

According to the decree, the Russian subsidiaries of Fortum and Uniper, a former subsidiary of Fortum since nationalized by Berlin after the cessation of Russian gas deliveries are immediately affected by a seizure of their assets in Russia last year.

Rossimushchestvo, the Russian federal agency designated “provisional manager”, clarified that this decree “does not deprive the owners of their property”, but means that “the original owner no longer has the right to make management decisions “.

A spokesperson for the German Finance Ministry said during a press briefing that Berlin “takes note of the decision of the Russian government”. “We must now examine what the concrete consequences are”, he added.

Present in Russia for more than 60 years, Fortum and Uniper had 7,000 employees on its territory at the start of the conflict, with 12 electricity and heat production plants, operating mainly on gas.

“At this stage, Fortum has not received official confirmation from the Russian authorities and the company is currently investigating the situation,” the Finnish group responded in a statement on Wednesday.

Fortum said “ not knowing ” concretely “ how (this decree) affects for example (s) its Russian operations or the ongoing divestment process”, started in May 2022, in the wake of the launch of the military offensive in Ukraine .

According to the group, its assets in Russia as of December 31, 2022 represented “1.7 billion euros ($1.9 billion)”. He also has a significant stake in the Russian electricity group TGC-1.

Uniper for its part declared “ currently examining the legal situation ”, stressing that “ Uniper has de facto no longer been able to exercise operational control over Unipro (its Russian subsidiary, Ed) since the end of 2022 ”.

The German group repeated on Wednesday that it had found a potential local buyer of its Russian subsidiary, but this operation “has still not been validated” by the Russian authorities.

The question of the possible seizure by Moscow of the assets of international companies wishing to leave Russia remains a fear for these groups, some of them claiming to remain at present in this country to avoid being accused of premeditated bankruptcy and to lose everything in the process.

In more than a year, the West has frozen more than 300 billion euros in assets of the Russian central bank and Brussels has immobilized in the EU 21.5 billion euros of assets of oligarchs and entities hit by sanctions.

But the option of confiscating these Russian assets to rebuild Ukraine and compensate victims of war crimes, championed by Kyiv, is a legal headache for Westerners.

“It is difficult to find legal means that are acceptable,” Anders Ahnlid, the main project manager in the EU, told AFP at the end of March.