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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Court: EU sanctions against Wagner boss’ mother not legal

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Is the EU wrongfully taking action against family members of Russian private army chief Wagner? Judges have now ruled on this question. There should be celebrations in Russia.

The General Court of the European Union has annulled EU sanctions against the mother of Russia’s private army chief Wagner. The court ruled today in Luxembourg that the family relationship between Violetta Prigozchina and her son Yevgeny Prigozhin alone does not justify punitive measures. The judges did not consider the business relationships between the two alleged by the EU to be proven.

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The judgment is an unpleasant setback for the EU. Recently, she has increasingly targeted family members of Russian oligarchs in order to crumbling support for Russia’s war against Ukraine. The assumption was that many of the relatives would not want to miss out on shopping trips to Paris or luxury vacations on the Mediterranean. In addition, access to assets that oligarchs have transferred to their wives, parents or children, for example, should also be made possible.

Frozen assets and travel ban

The punitive measures taken by the EU usually stipulate that all of the assets of those affected in the EU must be frozen. In addition, they are no longer allowed to enter the EU.

It is now eagerly awaited how the EU will react to the verdict. The Council of Member States can still challenge the decision before the European Court of Justice. However, it is also conceivable that the member states will quickly adopt a new, better-founded decision on sanctions. The challenged implementing regulation on the sanctions remains valid at least until the objection period has expired.

More judgments could follow

Similar unpleasant judgments could follow in the near future. Dozens of lawsuits from oligarchs and family members are currently pending in the court in Luxembourg. Many of them argue that they do not, as the EU claims, support the war in Ukraine or have close ties to President Vladimir Putin.

For example, according to documents available on the court’s website, the two oligarchs Grigory Bereskin and Gennady Timchenko are demanding compensation for allegedly “immaterial damage”. Bereskin claims that he has “severely suffered damage to his reputation” and is “not connected to the events in Ukraine”. He apparently symbolically demands one euro as compensation for the immaterial damage.

Timchenko, who lives in Switzerland and played ice hockey with Kremlin boss Putin, wants one million euros in damages from the EU. In his lawsuit, he accuses the EU of making an obvious error in its assessment of “the relationship between the plaintiff and President Putin.” In addition, he cites as further grounds for action, among other things, the “violation of the right to effective judicial protection and the obligation to state reasons” and a “violation of the principle of proportionality and of fundamental rights”.

Other well-known oligarchs as plaintiffs

According to court documents, the list of plaintiffs in Luxembourg includes other oligarchs known in the West, including the ex-owner of the English football club Chelsea FC, Roman Abramovich, and Mikhail Fridman, founder and manager of the large financial group Alfa-Group.

Like Timchenko, Abramovich is demanding one million euros “as compensation for the non-material damage that has occurred.” If the EU is convicted, the sum will go to a charitable foundation for the benefit of war victims.

The mother of Wagner boss Prigozhin justified her lawsuit filed in April in a similar way to many of the oligarchs. Her lawyer argued, among other things, that the EU had disregarded the obligation to justify the sanctions decision and had made factual errors. Thus, Prigozhina denied owning two companies founded by her son. She also argued that her ties with her son did not imply that she had in any way compromised the territorial integrity of Ukraine. The actual aim of the sanctions is to indirectly hit her son Yevgeny.

Close connection to Putin

The EU describes him as a “prominent Russian businessman with close ties to President Putin and the Russian Defense Ministry” and holds him responsible for sending Wagner Group mercenaries to Ukraine. He is also accused of profiting from Russian decision-makers responsible for the annexation of Crimea and the destabilization of eastern Ukraine.

According to the EU, Prigozhin founded the company Konkord, which is said to have received extensive public contracts from the Russian Ministry of Defense after the annexation of Crimea and the occupation of eastern Ukraine by separatists supported by Russia.

In Ukraine, Prigozhin’s private army is notorious for recruiting convicted murderers and other convicts, and for appearing to act with no regard for casualties. In Ukraine, Wagner mercenaries are currently fighting alongside regular Russian soldiers for control of the eastern city of Bakhmut.

Source: Stern

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