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17 Jul, 2022 20:58

Russian ‘oligarchs’ seek damages over EU sanctions – WSJ

Top Russian business tycoons are battling the bloc in court, seeking removal of personal sanctions
Russian ‘oligarchs’ seek damages over EU sanctions – WSJ

Billionaire Roman Abramovich and other top Russian tycoons who’ve been targeted by EU sanctions over the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, are challenging the restrictions in a European court. The businessmen, widely regarded as ‘oligarchs’ in the West, allege their rights have been infringed by the sanctions, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

Former Chelsea owner Abramovich, metals and mining magnate Alisher Usmanov, as well as Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven, longtime bosses of Alfa Bank, one of the Russia’s largest, have all filed separate lawsuits over the sanctions with the EU’s General Court, according to WSJ. They ask the bloc’s second-highest court to annul the sanctions, claiming their rights have been infringed and disputing their allegedly close ties with the Kremlin. Abramovich, for instance, has cited his Portuguese citizenship in the filings, claiming that the EU sanctions have breached fundamental rights supposedly protected by the bloc itself, according to the report.

Some of the ‘oligarchs’ are even seeking damages from the EU, according to the report. The damages, however, appear to be more symbolic rather than practical for Russian billionaires. Abramovich is seeking the European Council to pay over $1 million to a charity set up to receive the proceeds of the sale of Chelsea Football Club.

Usmanov and his sister, Gulbakhor Ismailova, have similarly contested the EU’s assertions that they somehow played a role in the ongoing conflict. They are also seeking payments of about $20,000 to cover legal costs, according to the report. In his filing, Usmanov reportedly claimed the restrictions have led to several business deals failing and placed at least three of his companies on the brink of bankruptcy. The tycoon also claimed the sanctions will affect employees and their families at his businesses, yet the motion was reportedly shot down by a court last month.

Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported, citing sources, that the EU is considering removing the restrictions it had imposed on some Russian nationals. According to the outlet, some 40 Russians have sought to be removed from the sanctions list, with some 30 taking the matter to court and a further ten addressing the EU directly. The bloc’s lawyers have reportedly admitted that some of the requests filed by the sanctioned Russians may have merit, and the restrictions against them had been imposed based on either weak, dated, or outright false evidence. 

Over the past few months, the EU has targeted hundreds of high-profile Russians, including top officials, business leaders and their family members over their alleged roles in the conflict. The restrictions commonly include a targeted asset freeze and travel bans.

Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces.”

In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.