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UPDATE 1-Canada to seize assets of sanctioned Russian oligarch Abramovich

(Adds details from statement, background)

OTTAWA, Dec 19 (Reuters) - The Canadian government said on Monday it will start the process to seize and pursue the forfeiture of $26 million from Granite Capital Holdings Ltd, a company owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.

The move marks the first case of the Canadian government using new powers to pursue the seizure of assets belonging to sanctioned individuals, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Foreign Minister Melany Joly will now consider making a court application for the asset forfeiture, and if successful, the proceeds could be used for reconstruction in Ukraine and compensation of victims of the Russian invasion.

Joly said “Canada will continue to pressure the Russian regime and those who have benefited from Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine.”

Representatives for Granite Capital Holdings or Abramovich could not immediately be located to seek comment.

Russian oligarchs are complicit in the invasion and Canada “will not be a haven for their ill-gotten gains,” Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said in the statement.

Moscow calls its invasion a “special military operation” to “demilitarise” and “denazify” its neighbour. Kyiv and its allies, which have imposed broad sanctions in response to the invasion, call it an unprovoked act of conquest.

Canada has imposed sanctions on more than 1,500 individuals and entities from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus since the invasion began on Feb. 24. (Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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