French Ease Freeze on CB Money

France has unfrozen one of the Central Bank's accounts in French commercial banks, frozen as part of a suit by Swiss trading firm Noga, a Russian financial source familiar with the situation said Wednesday.

"There is information that one of the two accounts was unblocked on Jan. 17," the source said.

Noga has previously sought to seize Russian assets abroad to win back the debts linked to an oil-for-food deal struck in 1991 to 1992.

It has recently obtained a new court order to seize Russian assets, and its move to freeze accounts of the Central Bank poses legal risks to Russia's $157 billion stabilization fund, which is managed by the Central Bank.

The Finance Ministry said earlier Wednesday that the Geneva-based trading company, which obtained a court order to freeze Russian assets earlier this month, would not be able to keep them to recover debts from the country.

The ministry said Russian companies would soon take more steps to free the rest of the accounts.

"In any case, Noga will not be able to keep any part of the blocked assets, and this unlawful move will not have negative financial consequences for the Russian companies involved," the ministry said in a report.

The ministry said no assets belonging to the Russian government had been seized, although the bank accounts of the Central Bank and RIA-Novosti in Paris were frozen.