EU court overturns sanctions against Russian oligarchs

The EU's General Court in Luxembourg has lifted the sanctions imposed on the Russian oligarchs Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven between February 2022 and March 2023. It explained the decision saying that the EU Council had failed to provide sufficient evidence for the two main shareholders of Alfa-Bank to be included in the sanctions list at the time. This ruling does not, however, affect subsequent sanctions decisions.

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Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

The presumption of innocence applies to all

The Süddeutsche Zeitung welcomes the court's decision:

“Since the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, the EU Council of Ministers has become accustomed to taking a rather relaxed approach to imposing economic sanctions. This means that a person's assets are completely frozen, they are no longer permitted to sell or rent anything, and no one is allowed to engage in economic relations with them. This is a complete ban - often on a tenuous basis. ... While the EU's goals in pursuing its sanctions policies are sound, this is not the way forward. Constitutional states don't need to adopt such an approach. ... The presumption of innocence would not count for much if the EU Council of Ministers were able to govern so casually.”

Echo (RU) /

Money and expensive lawyers mean anything goes

In a post on X published by Echo, Yulia Navalnayacriticises the decision:

“Neither Fridman nor Aven have spoken out against the war or tried to end it - they have merely hired very expensive lawyers and found good lobbyists. In Europe, Russian opponents of the war face many problems, but Russian oligarchs can easily solve everything with money. The war is now in its third year. During all this time no specific mechanism for imposing or lifting sanctions has been established. Decisions are made on the principle of first come, first served. Lifting the sanctions against Fridman and Aven is damaging. It weakens the anti-war movement and helps Putin to stay in power longer.”

Ukrajinska Prawda (UA) /

Little chance of winning the next trial

The judgment doesn't mean that the two oligarchs can escape the sanctions, Ukrainska Pravda explains:

“The European Union has already worked on rectifying its mistakes so that not even Fridman and Aven have a good chance of winning the next trial. The EU has had the right to impose sanctions on any Russian businessman since 2023, and the lawyers in Brussels have already been able to take note of the first court decisions that prove the effectiveness of the new model. Therefore, there are currently only two ways for the oligarchs to escape sanctions: death, or public and systematic condemnation of the Kremlin's actions against Ukraine. Not many of them are prepared to use either of these options at present.”