Tuesday

26th Oct 2021

Two more Ukrainians try to get off EU blacklist

  • The so-called Coest group in the EU Council is handing the complaints (Photo: consilium.europa.au)

Two more Ukrainians under an EU asset freeze - the former president’s son, Oleksandr Yanukovych, and businessman Serhiy Kurchenko - have filed objections with the EU Council in Brussels.

Diplomatic contacts said the council’s “Coest” working group is considering their appeals, but predicted they will have to fight the decision at the EU court in Luxembourg.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

“This kind of complaint is normally the first step before launching legal proceedings,” one source said.

The EU asset freeze was imposed on 5 March, two weeks after the regime fell. It cites 18 people, including the former president himself and his other son, Viktor, for looting state money or for human rights violations.

It describes Kurchenko and Oleksandr Yanukovych as “businessmen” who are “subject to investigation in Ukraine for involvement in crimes in connection with the embezzlement of Ukrainian state funds and their illegal transfer outside Ukraine.”

The two men join former Ukrainian PM Mykola Azarov and his son, Oleksii, who filed similar EU complaints last month.

The Azarovs are using a German law firm, Alber & Geiger. It is unclear who is representing Kurchenko and Oleksandr Yanukovych, but Alber & Geiger told EUobserver it is not involved.

Ukraine’s caretaker government estimates that $70 billion was stolen from the treasury during the former regime’s four years in power, gutting vital institutions, including the Ukrainian military.

It is being assisted by EU officials and by the US’ Federal Bureau of Investigation to repatriate funds.

Kurchenko, a 28-year-old banking, gas, and media tycoon with close links to the former ruling clan, said in a statement published by his company, Vetek Group, on 6 March: “I am an honest Ukrainian businessman … I am ready to provide all the necessary documents and to give any assistance to the EU inspection bodies in order to prove my innocence.”

But Ukrainian prosecutors have issued a warrant for his arrest on charges he stole $100 million from a state gas firm. They also say he hired “titushki” - plain clothes thugs - to beat up protesters.

Meanwhile, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a Washington-based group of journalists, has obtained documents showing that Kurchenko-linked offshore firms, including three in Cyprus, funelled huge sums via Latvia’s ABLV bank.

Oleksandr Yanukovych, 40, is a dentist by training.

He also became one of Ukraine’s richest men after gaining control of a bank on his father’s watch and is said by Forbes magazine to be worth $510 million.

The current whereabouts of the Azarovs, Kurchenko, and of Oleksandr Yanukovych are unknown.

Mykola Azarov was last reported to have fled to Austria, where his family has business and real estate interests.

The EU blacklist does not include a visa ban alongside the asset freeze, as in the case of EU sanctions on Russian officials.

An EU diplomat added that, under EU sanctions rules, member states can authorise the release of frozen funds to pay for “reasonable” legal fees to fight the measures in the EU system.

“From experience I know that many persons under asset freeze use lawyers in Europe,” the contact said.

Correction: The original story said the sanctions on 18 Ukrainians also include an EU visa ban. They do not. Apologies

EU leaders agree new Russia sanctions

EU leaders have reacted to Russia's annexation of Crimea by blacklisting 12 new names and agreeing to send EU peace monitors if need be.

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. How to break the political deadlock on migration
  2. Hedegaard on the hazards of stalling climate action
  3. Belarus exiles in EU fear regime-linked murderers
  4. No place for Polish 'war' rhetoric, Commission says
  5. Nine countries oppose EU gas market reform
  6. EU-UK impasse on top court in post-Brexit customs talks
  7. Erdoğan orders out US and EU ambassadors
  8. EU banks play 'major role' in deforestation, report finds

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us