U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, seen here in this 2021 Empire file photo, introduced a bill Monday that would allow the federal government to seize Russian ships in American waters. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire file)

U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, seen here in this 2021 Empire file photo, introduced a bill Monday that would allow the federal government to seize Russian ships in American waters. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire file)

Alaska’s lawmakers seek to punish Russia

Banning seafood and seizing assets recommended

U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, announced legislation Monday allowing the seizure of Russian yachts and commercial vessels currently within the waters of the United States in retaliation for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Given the vast humanitarian crisis created by Putin’s greed and aggression, my (legislation) will permit the U.S. federal government to auction these vessels and all contents inside, with proceeds going toward humanitarian aid efforts offered by NATO member states,” Young said in a statement.

The bill — known as the Bringing Oligarch Accountability Through Seizure or BOATS Act — would also apply to Russian vessels sailing under the flags of other nations.

In an email, Young’s spokesman Zack Brown said seized Russian assets would be sold with profits going to humanitarian aid for Ukrainians.

[Federal funds could pave way for a second crossing]

“If (Russian President Vladimir) Putin ends his needless war, billionaire Russian oligarchs are free to pursue the possibility of buying back their yachts from whoever purchased them,” Brown said. “Commercial operations could do the same.”

Young’s bill comes as the U.S. and other nations impose a raft of economic sanctions and other diplomatic punishments on Russia.

Also Monday, state lawmakers were set to debate a resolution urging President Joe Biden to seek an end to the Russian imposed embargo on U.S. seafood products. That resolution was passed unanimously in the Senate last year and was making its way through the House committee process, most recently moved out of the House Fisheries Committee on Jan. 31. On Monday the resolution was moved back to the House Rules Committee.

Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, told the Empire the timing for that resolution wasn’t right, considering recent events.

That issue dates back to 2014 when Russia embargoed U.S. seafood products in retaliation to American sanctions following the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. It’s an issue Alaska’s senators have recently advocated for — before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both Republicans, recently introduced a bill imposing a reciprocal ban on Russian seafood products. On Feb. 17, Sullivan attempted to have the bill approved by unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate but the motion was objected to by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusettes. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Finance.

Both state lawmakers and the Congressional delegation have said the Russian invasion of Ukraine shows the need for greater resource production in Alaska.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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