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EU court upholds some sanctions on Putin judo partner Rotenberg

An EU court on Wednesday upheld some of the sanctions imposed on Arkady Rotenberg, tycoon and judo sparring partner of Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his role in the Ukraine crisis.

As the crisis deepened in early 2014 with Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the EU imposed asset freezes and travel bans on Russian and Ukrainian figures it blamed for breaking up the country, among them Rotenberg.

He appealed against the sanctions to the General Court of the European Union, second to the European Court of Justice, saying Brussels had imposed them illegally.

In its ruling, the General Court said it partly upheld Rotenberg’s action and annulled the sanctions for the period July 30, 2014 to March 14, 2015 because the EU legal reasoning was at fault.

The General Court said that for this period, “the first statement of reasons is vitiated by manifest errors of assessment,” and therefore the sanctions could not stand.

The sanctions were subsequently renewed from March 15, 2015 for six month periods but with additional reasons given — that Rotenberg was the owner of a company building a bridge between Crimea and Russia, and that he headed a public relations effort to reinforce Moscow’s claims to the peninsular.

The General Court said its initial reservations about the sanctions remained but the two additional grounds now cited justified them.

It said it had examined “whether the new grounds… are also vitiated by manifest errors of assessment. The Court concludes that they are not and thus declines to annul the restrictive measures from March 15, 2015,” a statement said.

In addition to the Ukraine asset freeze and travel ban sanctions, the EU has also imposed punishing economic restrictions against Russia directly, plus a separate series of measures targeting those involved in the annexation of Crimea.