1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Russian oligarchs win appeal to partially annul EU sanctions

April 10, 2024

A European Union court has annulled sanctions imposed on two Russian businessmen in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, ruling the reasoning behind the punitive measures was not "sufficiently substantiated."

Russian oligarchs Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven
EU sanctions on Russian oligarchs Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven for the period February 2022 and March 2023 have been lifted.Image: Mikhail Metzel/TASS/imago

A European Union court declared sanctions imposed on two prominent Russian oligarchs in connection with Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine to be null and void.

The EU's General Court found that the European Council did not provide sufficient evidence to justify placing Petr Aven and Mikhail Fridman on its sanctions list in between February 2022 and mid-March 2023.

However, the court decision only applies retroactively to the period in question up to March 2023.

A court spokesman told Reuters news agency that the two men remain on the EU sanctions list, as the punitive measures were since rolled over.

The oligarchs have appealed the extension for the period after March 2023 in a separate case, and the court spokesman said that this new appeal is in its initial stage.

Nevertheless, the court ruling that EU sanctions were not sufficiently substantiated could be seen as a source of embarrassment for the bloc.

Why were the oligarchs sanctioned?

Aven and Fridman were sanctioned in February 2022 after the EU accused the pair, both major shareholders in Alfa Group which belongs to Russia's Alfa Bank, of a close proximity to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It alleged that they had supported Russian decision-makers in the implementation of "polices that threatened the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine."

But Aven, who also has Latvian citizenship, and Fridman, who is also an Israeli national, appealed the sanctions, claiming that evidence put forward by the European Council, which represents the 27 EU member countries, was neither reliable nor credible.

And the Luxembourg-based court has agreed, finding that, while there may have been a loose connection to Putin or his entourage, the council's reasons were not "sufficiently substantiated and ... therefore not justified."

How have they responded to the ruling? 

Lawyers representing the two men welcomed the ruling as being "of the utmost significance."

"The court rightly found that all accusations against Mr. Fridman and Mr. Aven were completely baseless," the France-based lawyers Thierry Marembert, Aaron Bass and Roger Gherson said in a statement.

"Sanctioning them was a counterproductive mistake. We hope that today's strong signal will be heard in the EU and outside," it added. 

There are currently more than 1,700 individuals and 400 businesses on the EU's Russia sanctions list, among them Alfa Bank.

The EU sanctions bar individuals' travel to the European Union and forbid EU citizens and companies from having financial dealings with them.

The European Council could also appeal Wednesday's ruling at the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the EU's supreme court.

Russia's economy stable despite war sanctions

mf/wmr (Reuters, dpa)