By Jacqueline Thomsen
(Reuters) – A coalition of Ukrainian companies want a U.S. federal court to order Russia to pay a nearly $35 million foreign judgment, with the hope they can eventually access some of the country’s assets in the United States.
The 11 companies said on Saturday in a petition in Washington, D.C., federal court that they operated gas stations and an office in Crimea that were seized by Russia in 2014. Swiss arbitrators awarded them $34.5 million in 2019, according to court papers.
A lawyer for the companies, James Boykin, said the freezing of Russian assets as part of recent U.S. sanctions could offer a chance for his clients to collect.
“If funds do get made available to people who suffered from Russian aggression, I don’t see why Crimea and people who lost out following the annexation would be excluded,” he said.
The petition said Russian forces seized and looted petrol stations owned by the companies because Ukrainian tycoon and former government official Igor Kolomoisky, a part owner of petitioner Sabil, was a Kremlin critic. Kolomoisky was sanctioned by the United States in 2021 for alleged corruption.
Russia did not participate in the arbitration but contested the award at the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, which denied Russia’s appeal.
An international convention and U.S. law allow U.S. courts to enforce foreign arbitration awards. Last month Yukos Capital, an affiliate of the Yukos Oil company expropriated by Russia nearly two decades ago, filed its own D.C. court petition to enforce a $5 billion arbitration award against Russia.
A lawyer for Yukos Capital in that case did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and no lawyer has appeared for Russia.
Neither petition mentions the escalating sanctions against Russia over the invasion of Ukraine or the ongoing deadly war there, which Russia has described as a special military operation to de-Nazify the country.
(Reporting by Jacqueline Thomsen; Editing by David Bario and Sandra Maler)