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Australian Retirement Funds Start Dumping Russian Assets Over Ukraine Invasion

The sails of the Sydney Opera House are illuminated with the colors of the Ukrainian national flag as members of the Australian Ukrainian community and supporters participate in a rally against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Sydney, March 1, 2022.

Some Australian finance firms have started to divest Russian assets in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Australian government Thursday urged the country’s $2.5 trillion pension industry to reassess its Russian holdings after the invasion.

In addition, Russia’s Ukraine invasion has prompted several Australian companies to cut ties with Russia by selling assets or stopping operations.

Australia said Thursday it “strongly expected” the nation’s pension funds, known as superannuation, or retirement funds, to review their investment portfolios and to divest any holdings in Russian assets.

Australia's $150 billion sovereign wealth fund, set up in 2006 to benefit future generations, said it planned to reduce its exposure to Russian-listed companies.

Russian assets are a very small proportion of Australia's retirement funds. Nevertheless, Jane Hume, the Treasury’s superannuation minister, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that cutting those financial ties to Russia would still be significant.

“Maybe it is small as a percentage but it is a 3.5 trillion [Australian] dollar industry. Even if you only held half of 1%, of your assets in Russia, that could equate to billions of dollars -- over 17 billion [Australian] dollars. That is a significant amount of capital that is invested in Russia,” Hume said.

Australia has also imposed sanctions on Russian oligarchs and politicians, including more than 300 members of the Russian parliament.

Australia has also imposed technology penalties on Russia, including export bans on goods used in weapons production and oil and gas exploration.

On Tuesday, Australia said it would spend $50 million to buy missiles and ammunition to support Ukraine.