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4 Aug, 2022 22:24

EU adds ex-Ukrainian president to sanctions list

Brussels has accused Viktor Yanukovich and his son of undermining the nation’s independence
EU adds ex-Ukrainian president to sanctions list

The European Council added former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and his son Aleksandr to its sanctions list on Thursday. They accused the former leader, who was ousted during the 2014 'Maidan' coup, of playing a role in “undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine,” as well as its “stability and security.” 

The council did not elaborate on why Yanukovich was added to the list, simply referring to him as “pro-Russian.” His son was accused of “conducting transactions with the separatist groups” in Donbass. 

Previously, the only Ukrainian nationals sanctioned by the EU were those serving in government positions in territories Russia had taken control over during the military operation in Ukraine, launched on February 24. 

Yanukovich was granted asylum in Russia after he was forced to flee Ukraine. In 2019, a Ukrainian court sentenced him in absentia to 13 years in prison for treason. At the time, he accused the Ukrainian authorities of placing pressure on the court, and said the decision had “nothing to do with the law.”

In March this year, Ukrainian media outlets published unsubstantiated claims that Russia was planning to reappoint Yanukovich as president of Ukraine.

The EU has targeted Yanukovich and his son before. In March 2021, the European Council extended personal restrictions imposed on the two in 2014 over the alleged embezzlement of Ukrainian state funds, and froze their assets. The former president won a court battle against the EC in June of that year.

Yanukovich has not yet commented on the EU’s latest decision, nor has Moscow.

Most of those targeted with personal sanctions by the EU and US, as well as their allies, are Russian military commanders, politicians, and businessmen (including family members) deemed to be close to the Kremlin. 

The latest round of sanctions adopted by the EU in mid-July involved personal restrictions against Russian actors Sergey Bezrukov and Vladimir Mashkov, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, and the leader of the Night Wolves biker club, Aleksandr Zaldostanov, who was accused of “actively supporting Russian state propaganda through publicly denying Ukraine’s right to statehood.” 

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 Pyotr 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.