EU court throws out sanctions against five Ukraine old guard

28th January 2016, Comments 0 comments

An EU court on Thursday annulled European Union sanctions against five Ukrainians, including two former prime ministers, because the bloc had wrongly found them at fault over embezzling state funds.

As the Ukraine crisis deepened in early 2014 amid massive pro-EU protests against the Moscow-leaning government, the bloc imposed asset freezes against leading supporters of then president Viktor Yanukovych who was widely believed to have looted state coffers.

The General Court of the European Union, second highest in the EU after the European Court of Justice (ECJ), said the decision was based solely on a single letter written by the Kiev prosecutor after Yanukovych and the five men had fled to Russia.

The EU can now in theory appeal to the ECJ over the decision.

Ruling on the five men's appeal, the court said the "letter provides no details concerning the matters specifically alleged against the five Ukrainians or the nature of their responsibility."

"The court concludes that the freezing of the assets of the five Ukrainians does not satisfy the designation criteria and therefore annuls that measure," it said in a statement.

The five included Mykola Yanovych Azarov and Sergej Arbuzov, who both served as prime minister; Azarov's son, Oleksii Mykolayovych Azarov, and two other senior Ukrainian officials -- Sergiy Klyuyev and Eduard Stavytsky.

The EU froze their assets for 12 months from March 2014 on the grounds they were being investigated by the new Ukraine authorities for having stolen state funds.

It has since renewed the measure against four of the men but the General Court appeal concered only the freeze imposed for the March 2014 to March 2015 period.

The EU has imposed travel bans and asset freezes against many leading Ukraine and Russian figures for their role in the crisis and Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Brussels subsequently hit Russia with damaging economic sanctions which run until July this year.

© 2016 AFP

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