The European Union’s second highest court on Wednesday upheld sanctions against seven Russian businessmen and women, but ruled partly in favor of a complaint filed by former tech industry boss Alexander Shulgin.
The sanctions, which include asset freezes and travel bans, have been wielded by the Council of the EU — the intergovernmental part of the 27-nation bloc — to punish oligarchs and other influential Russians deemed to have supported President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and to have backed the Kremlin’s war machine.
The rulings are closely watched by lawyers defending other Russian oligarchs. More than 80 individuals and companies have taken the Council to court over sanctions since the war began, complaining that the sanctions are unjustified or unsupported by the evidence.
One of the most high-profile cases was that of billionaire oil trader Gennady Timchenko and his wife Elena, who both lost the cases they had lodged against the Council of the EU.
Like others, Timchenko was sanctioned for, among others, having participated in a meeting at which Putin discussed the impact of a possible war in Ukraine, days before ordering troops to invade on February 24, 2022. His wife was sanctioned for her close family and business links with him.
The Timchenkos had argued that the Council hadn’t properly justified their sanctions. But the EU’s General Court rejected that argument, pointing to newspaper articles that the court deemed reliable.
“The Council gave reasons for the contested measures based on reasons that were sufficiently individual, specific and concrete to enable the applicant to defend himself, so that the complaint that the statement of reasons was inadequate or non-existent must be rejected,” the court said in its judgment.
The other Russians whose complaints were quashed were steel magnate Dmitry Pumpyansky, his wife Galina and their son Aleksander, a motor racing driver; Tigran Khudaverdyan, the former CEO of search engine Yandex; and oil tycoon Mikhail Gutseriev who was sanctioned in 2021 over his links with Belarus.
The court sided with Shulgin, the former tech industry executive, arguing that the Council had been wrong in prolonging his sanctions in September last year.
For example, the EU had not sufficiently proven that Shulgin supported policies that threatened the stability in Ukraine, or that he remained a leading businessperson after he resigned in April of last year as CEO of Ozon, an e-commerce company, the court ruled.
The judgments can be appealed to the bloc’s highest court, the European Court of Justice.