Thursday

20th Feb 2020

Former Ukraine spy chief gets off EU blacklist

  • The SBU is widely believed to have orchestrated violence last year (Photo: Christiaan Triebert)

The EU has delisted Ukraine’s former security chief, while reimposing sanctions for most other members of the pre-revolution regime.

It said in its legal gazette on Friday (6 March) that Oleksandr Yakymenko, the former head of Ukraine’s internal security service, the SBU, is no longer subject to an asset freeze.

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  • Dozens of protesters lost their lives, but sanctions were imposed over stolen money (Photo: mac_ivan)

It also let three other men - Oleksii Azarov, Andriy Portnov, and Ihor Kalinin - off the hook. Azarov is the son of the former PM, while the others are former aides to ex-president Viktor Yanukovych.

The sanctions were originally imposed on grounds the individuals are subject to enquiries in Ukraine on stealing state funds.

They were delisted because the Ukrainian authorities’ cases against them unravelled.

The EU also on Friday did roll over sanctions on Yanukovych and 17 memers of his ruling clan, also known as the Familia. Most of them were extended for one year. But four of them for just a few months - until 6 June - also to reflect progress in Ukraine’s internal prosecutions.

The four names on the short extension are one of Yanukovych’s sons (Viktor jr.), former justice minister Olena Lukash, businessman Serhii Kliuiev, and one-time education minister Dmytro Tabachnyk.

The delistings, notably of Yakymenko, are a symbolic blow for both the EU and for Ukraine’s new authorities.

The SBU is widely believed by Ukrainian people to have helped orchestrate murders, kidnappings, and sniper shootings during last year’s uprising.

The new authorities’ inability to prove the guilt of key Familia members is likely to be seen, at best, as a sign of their incompetence, or, more darkly, of collusion.

The EU sanctions decision comes amid a prolonged lull in fighting.

But Nato says Russia has massed 12,000 troops in east Ukraine in what looks like preparations for a fresh assault.

Also on Friday, a bomb exploded in Kharkiv, in north-east Ukraine, in the second such attack in one week.

The EU recently extended the life of their Russia blacklists and have thraetened to impose new economic sanctions if need be.

But Western powers are sounding increasingly dissonant on how to handle the crisis.

Leading US congressmen have urged the White House to arm Ukrainian soldiers - an idea opposed by France and Germany.

In the EU, Poland and the UK have also raised the prospect of arms supplies and extra sanctions. But Cyprus, Hungary, and Italy are cultivating friendly ties with Moscow.

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