The General Court of the European Union has annulled the bloc’s 2019 decision to extend asset freezes imposed on former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his son Oleksandr over the alleged embezzlement of Ukrainian state funds and assets.
The Luxembourg-based court ruled on June 9 that the European Council “failed to demonstrate that the rights of the defense and the right to effective judicial protection were respected in the criminal proceedings” by the Ukrainian authorities.
Despite the court ruling, a spokesman for the bloc said that Yanukovych and his son “remain subject to EU restrictive measures based on legal acts adopted in 2021 and an amended statement of reasons that are not part of the challenge initiated in 2019.”
Brussels imposed the measures against Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin former president, family members, and close political allies shortly after the collapse of his government in late February 2014.
Some of the people listed have challenged, and sometimes won court cases against the measure.
The council has renewed every year their designations against Viktor and Oleksandr Yanukovych. The two have challenged the measures in EU courts, which had annulled the listing decisions in 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018.
In March 2019, the restrictive measures against the Yanukovychs were once again extended by one year. The General Court’s June 9 ruling concerns the legality of that specific decision.
“It cannot be established that, prior to the adoption of the contested acts, the [European] Council satisfied itself that the Ukrainian judicial authorities complied with the rights of defense and the right to effective judicial protection of the individuals in question in the context of the criminal proceedings at issue,” the court said in its ruling.
“Therefore, in deciding to maintain the names of both men on the list of persons subject to restrictive measures, the council made an error of assessment. Consequently, the General Court annuls the contested acts in so far as they relate to Mr. Fedorovych Yanukovych and Mr. Viktorovych Yanukovych.”
In a statement, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell’s spokesman, Peter Stano, said the council “is making every effort to ensure that listings meet all legal requirements as defined by the EU courts, taking into account the evolving case law.”
Stano added that the Yanukovychs remain on the sanctions list since the restrictive measures against them were extended by a year in March.