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Russian assets in 'urgent' spotlight as Yellen heads to G20 meeting

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen attends press conference in San Francisco

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. officials continue to discuss with allies what to do with Russian assets immobilized after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine two years ago, a senior U.S. official said, as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen heads to Brazil on Sunday to meet Group of 20 counterparts, some of whom continue to trade with Russia.

A senior U.S. administration official said Yellen had been clear that it was "both appropriate but also urgent for us to consider ways that Russian assets can be used to benefit Ukraine consistent with international and domestic law."

U.S. President Joe Biden remains locked at loggerheads over efforts to approve some $61 billion in further aid to Ukraine with the leader of the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives.

The U.S. official gave no details how Russian assets could be used and said he did not expect any specific outcome on the Russia asset issue from next week's Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies in Sao Paolo, Brazil, but stressed that the issue remained top of mind for Treasury.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told Reuters in a separate interview on Thursday that Washington plans to hit over 500 targets with fresh sanctions on Friday, and will be joined by allies, marking the second anniversary of Russia's invasion.

Russian assets frozen by countries after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine will be a key topic for G7 officials meeting during the G20 gathering, the Treasury official said, as some European countries fret that seizing those assets could set dangerous precedents.

In Brazil, Yellen will hold a news conference on Tuesday and participate in a public event with Brazilian Finance Minister Fernando Haddad, as well as a bilateral meeting with her Brazilian counterpart.

She will also hold bilateral meetings with her counterparts from Germany, France, Saudi Arabia and Argentina, in addition to taking part in plenary sessions on the global economy and debt and financing for sustainable development.

On Thursday, she will travel on to Chile, with a goal of continuing to strengthen bilateral ties with a country rich in critical minerals needed to underpin global efforts to build more electric vehicles, Treasury said.

In Chile, Yellen plans to meet Chilean officials, women economists and local business leaders, and take part in a press conference with her Chilean counterpart on Friday, March 1.

Yellen will also tour a lithium processing facility operated by U.S.-based Albemarle Corp in Antofagasta, Chile, where she plans to underscore the Biden administration's commitment to bolstering global energy security, developing resilient clean energy supply chains, and working on a green transition.

"We think developing more diversified, secure supply chains with key trusted partners is an important part of securing our energy future. And I think Chile probably represents this about as well as anybody," the senior official said.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Michael Perry)