EU Court Annuls Sanctions Against Russian Oligarchs Aven and Fridman Amid Legal and Political Turmoil”

Russian oligarchs Petr Aven and Mikhail Fridman
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The European Court of Justice has handed down a verdict favoring two prominent Russian oligarchs, Petr Aven and Mikhail Fridman (pictured above), against the EU’s sanctions. The General Court annulled their inclusion in the sanctions list. These sanctions were imposed in response to Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine, casting a shadow of controversy over the EU’s measures to penalize those deemed to be undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty.

The court’s decision underscores a critical juncture in the EU’s legal proceedings, determining that the European Council failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove Aven and Fridman’s involvement in activities threatening Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence. Consequently, the sanctions levied on them for the period between 2022 and 2023 have been annulled, marking a significant setback to the EU’s sanction regime aimed at Moscow.

The General Court considers that none of the reasons set out in the initial acts is sufficiently substantiated and
that the inclusion of Mr Aven and Mr Fridman on the lists at issue was therefore not justified.

Court of Justice of the European Union (link)

Despite this legal victory, the sanctions against Aven and Fridman remain in place for now due to a subsequent EU decision in March 2023 to reimpose the restrictive measures. However, this latest court ruling is likely to catalyze efforts by the oligarchs to overturn the sanctions in a separate appeal against the March 2023 action, spotlighting the complex interplay between legal frameworks and geopolitical strategies.

Aven and Fridman, who amassed their fortunes in sectors ranging from oil to banking and retail, stand as the most high-profile Russians to challenge and succeed against the EU’s sanctions in a top court. Yet, they continue to be sanctioned by the UK, where both men have established significant real estate holdings.

The reaction to the court’s decision has been mixed, with some viewing it as a necessary adherence to legal standards, while others see it as a blow to the efforts to hold those close to the Kremlin accountable. Russian opposition figures have voiced strong criticisms, pointing out the oligarchs’ muted stance on the war and the apparent inefficacy of sanctions in eliciting more vocal opposition to the conflict from high-profile figures within Russia’s elite.

This ruling not only raises questions about the efficacy and implementation of international sanctions but also about the broader implications for the EU’s foreign policy and its stance against those accused of supporting or enabling conflicts that violate international norms. As the legal battles unfold, the international community remains watchful of the ripple effects this case may have on the global stage, particularly in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

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