Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday that he had authorized the United States to begin using seized Russian money to aid Ukraine, according to US media.

The announcement came during a meeting between Garland and Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin in Washington, nearly one year after Moscow's invasion of its former Soviet neighbor.

"Today, I am announcing that I have authorized the first-ever transfer of forfeited Russian assets for use in Ukraine," Garland said, according to CNN. 

The money will come from assets confiscated from Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev after his indictment on sanctions evasions in April, he added.

The money will go to the State Department "to support the people of Ukraine," CNN reported Garland as saying.

Kostin welcomed the move, which he said would see $5.4 million of confiscated assets go toward "rebuilding Ukraine."

"Delighted to see the new legislation aimed at seizing the Russian oligarchs' illicit assets in action," he posted on Twitter, along with a picture of himself and Garland during the meeting. 

"All Ukrainians have, in one way or another, suffered from this war. It's our obligation to ensure the Ukrainian people receive compensation for all the tremendous damage done," he said. 

"The inherent part of accountability is that the perpetrator pays for the harm inflicted," Kostin added at the end of his tweet thread.

Photo credit: Andriy Kostin, Twitter.

Russian millionaire Malofeyev is considered one of the main sources of funding for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. 

In April, the US Treasury blacklisted a network of some 40 individuals and entities led by Malofeyev that it said were used to facilitate sanctions evasion.

"After being sanctioned by the United States, Malofeyev attempted to evade the sanctions by using co-conspirators to surreptitiously acquire and run media outlets across Europe," Garland told reporters at the time, when the Justice Department indicted him. 

The United States has announced several packages of sanctions against Russian citizens and organizations since the start of Moscow's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Treasury Department sanctions generally seek to freeze any assets under US jurisdiction of those targeted and ban any American individual or entity, including financial institutions with US branches, from doing business with them.

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