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Sanctions upheld for disgraced Ukraine leader

October 19, 2017

Pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych and his son have been accused of stealing vast sums from the public purse. A top European Union court has now upheld a freeze on his assets.

Ukraine Viktor Janukowitsch Porträt ARCHIV
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) on Thursday upheld a freeze on the funds of ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Yanukovych had made a last ditch attempt to overturn the sanctions imposed by the European Union in 2014 by bringing the case to the top EU court.

The EU imposed the sanctions on Yanukovych and his son Oleksandr amid accusations of embezzlement and financial wrongdoing, for which both men are facing criminal proceedings in Ukraine.

Read more: Treason trial against Yanukovych begins in Ukraine

Yanukovych was deposed in 2014 at the culmination of the Maidan Revolution. The sanctions were imposed for the period of March 2015 to March 2016 and subsequently prolonged.

Europäischer Gerichtshof in Luxemburg
The twin towers of the European Court of Justice in Kirchberg, LuxemburgImage: Reuters/F. Lenoir

The ECJ ruled in line with a previous ruling by the General Court, which partially upheld the sanctions.

Read more: EU lifts some sanctions against ousted Ukraine leader Yanukovych

Asset freeze in line with the law

Yanukovych had argued that the criminal case against him in Ukraine was biased and that the sanctions should therefore not apply.

"In the light of the detailed nature of the charges brought against them, the freezing of the funds of the two parties concerned complies with the listing criterion used (persons identified as responsible for the misappropriation of Ukrainian State funds), as interpreted in the light of the objective of consolidating and supporting the rule of law in Ukraine," the court said in a statement.

Yanukovych's sprawling estate outside Kyiv has been turned into a "Museum of Corruption," where visitors can inspect his opulent former home.

In April, Ukraine launched a process to return about $1.5 billion (€1.3 billion) in assets allegedly stolen from the state by the Russian-backed leader and his team.

The National Security and Defense Council said the state savings bank was confiscating the former regime's holdings in line with an earlier court ruling.

"This money was stolen from the Ukrainian people," current Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in a public address at the time. "It was pulled out of the pocket of every Ukrainian."

Poroshenko, himself a Ukrainian oligarch who made his name in the confectionery business, pledged to stamp out corruption on taking office. Yet critics allege that he has made scant progress, not least former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, now a politician in Ukraine.

Read more: Saakashvili on why he's challenging Poroshenko's leadership of Ukraine

aw/msh (dpa, AFP)

Viktor Yanukovych's struggle for power