The European Union’s second highest court has upheld the bloc’s sanctions against former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych,his son Oleksandr, and one of his top aides, Andriy Kluiyev.
The three men are on a list of Ukrainians from Mr. Yanukovych’s time in office who the EU accuses of misappropriating state funds. Their assets were frozen by the EU at Ukraine’s request in the chaotic aftermath of Mr. Yanukovych’s flight from Kiev in late February 2014.
The fall of the Yanukovych administration sparked a series of events that included Russia’s annexation of Crimea the following month and the outbreak of fighting in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian rebels.
Mr. Kluiyev was the former head of administration for Mr. Yanukovych. Two of the former president’s sons were originally on the EU asset freeze list but his younger son, Viktor Yanukovych, died last year.
The General Court, whose judgments can be appealed to the European Court of Justice, ruled that the initial blacklisting of the three men in early 2014 wasn’t done legally by the EU because there was no significant evidence provided.
It said, however, when they were relisted in 2015 for new reasons and with stronger evidence to back the charges up, it was legally done. The EU pressed Ukraine to provide more evidence in the final months of 2014. Criminal proceedings were started against most of those listed.
That decision tallies with a series of other rulings the EU courts have handed down about Mr. Yanukovych’s inner circle. There have been a number of successful challenges to the 2014 list and several of the people originally targeted have been taken off the sanctions list. However most remain.
In its decision, the court said that given the evidence eventually presented and the senior position of the three officials, “the freezing of funds imposed on them contributes, in an effective manner, to facilitating the prosecution of crimes of misappropriation of public funds” and to recovery of those assets.
Mr. Yanukovych’s fall from office came after months of protests sparked by his decision to back out of a sweeping EU-Ukrainian trade and political agreement deeply opposed by Russia. Mr. Yanukovych instead decided to deepen ties with the Kremlin.