EU considering sanctions on eight Yanukovych officials
With Ukraine’s former leader on the run after allegedly stealing billions of euros and causing scores of deaths, oppositon chiefs want the EU to impose sanctions on him and his clan.
Hryhoriy Nemyria, the deputy chairman of the opposition Batkivshchyna party, told EUobserver on Wednesday (26 February) that Viktor Yanukovych and his "familia" embezzled €9 billion from the Ukrainian treasury in the past four years.
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He said the latest death toll from Kiev and other cities is 150 people and rising, as new information comes to light.
He noted that EU visa bans and asset freezes are “urgently” needed to help repatriate the stolen funds and to “defuse” tension on the streets.
“I don’t think they had the chance to move the money, much of which is in European banks, because the events developed so quickly,” Nemyria said.
He added: “There is an important psychological and security dimension to all of this. Activists and families of victims feel a lot of aggression because the people who committed these crimes have not been brought to justice. But if the new people in power use the Ukrainian legal system to pursue them without international endorsement, it might create the perception that this is political revenge.”
For their part, EU foreign ministers agreed last week to impose sanctions “against those responsible for human rights violations, violence and use of excessive force.”
EU officials have also drafted a legal text to implement the move.
The document is a standard formula, but it tidies up the ministers’ rhetoric: It refers to “human rights violations, violence or use of excessive force,” because the ministers' “and” would have been “cumulative” in legal terms and would have designated only people guilty of all three infractions.
The draft text also contains eight names, most of whom are Yanukovych’s former security chiefs.
It is confidential until it is published in the bloc’s Official Journal.
But the likely names - set down at the end of this article - are well known, not least to Ukrainian opposition activists who worked with EU diplomats to put the list together.
One option under discussion is to expand it to 11 names, in view of new material in documents seized from government buildings. Another option is to include political and business figures in the Yanukovych familia.
EU countries are waiting to see what foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton says after coming back from Kiev before they decide what to do.
Some of them agree with Nemyria’s point of view.
“What would we say to the people on the Maidan [the opposition camp in Kiev] if Oleksandr Yanukovych suddenly pops up in Paris and uses the money that he has in French banks to avoid being brought to justice,” a diplomat from one EU country said, referring to Yanukovych’s older son, a dentist, who used his father’s power to become one of Ukraine’s richest men.
She noted that the EU, in Egypt and Tunisia, already used asset freezes to help repatriate stolen funds.
Meanwhile, Ashton’s spokeswoman told EUobserver on Wednesday that: “The main focus now is on two issues: creating a lasting political solution and economic stabilisation.”
But other EU states are wary of triggering the blacklist even if Ashton says Yes.
A diplomat from one large EU country said there is “no agreement” on who to list and that the fall of Yanukovych has put the whole idea under a question mark.
He noted the foreign ministers last week also agreed that “implementation will be taken forward in the light of developments in Ukraine.”
“We use sanctions for preventative purposes, to try to change people’s behaviour, not for punitive purposes. You could say that the threat of sanctions has already had a positive impact in limiting the bloodshed. The question is what intention would we have if we implement the sanctions today?” the diplomat said.
A diplomat from another EU state said the decision is unlikely to be taken quickly.
“The situation in Ukraine has changed to the extent that there is no urgency as before. The original idea was to use sanctions to save lives. But now these events are in the past,” he noted.
He added that no matter what happens at EU level, individual member states would most likely stop people like Oleksandr Yanukovych from “popping up” in Paris or London to use their wealth.
“There are other institutions, other kinds of measures in play, which are not being disclosed,” the diplomat noted, referring to EU countries’ anti-money laundering structures and intelligence services.
“If a Politically Exposed Person arrived in a luxury hotel in the EU tomorrow, we would know about it very quickly,” he said.
EU blacklist: The options
The following names were given to this website by Ukrainian civil society activists and opposition leaders, some of whom advised the EU diplomats who drew up the draft list of eight names. EUobserver does not know who is currently designated in the confidential EU text.
Short list of people responsible for use of force
Serhiy Arbuzov (former deputy prime minister)
Yuriy Ilyin (former chief of Ukrainian army)
Andriy Kluyev (Yanukovych’s former chief of staff)
Pavlo Lebediev (former minister of defence)
Olena Lukash (former justice minister)
Viktor Pshonka (former prosecutor general)
Oleksandr Yakymenko (former head of Ukraine’s domestic intelligence service, the SBU)
Vitaliy Zakharchenko (former interior minister)
Additional names of people responsible for use of force
Serhiy Asaveliuk (former chief of special operations of the “BBVV,” the interior ministry’s gendarmerie)
Myhailo Dobkin (head of regional administration in Kharkiv, alleged to have masterminded use of “titushki,” or, hired thugs)
Gennadiy Kernes (mayor of Kharkiv, allegedly linked to titushki operations)
Valeriy Koriak (former Kiev police chief)
Oleksiy Krykun (former senior official in Kiev police)
Sergiy Kusiuk (former head of "Berkut" special police in Kiev)
Valeriy Mazan (former senior interior ministry official)
Oleksandr Popov (former chief of Kiev municipal administration)
Andriy Portnov (Yanukovych’s former deputy chief of staff)
Oleg Prysiazhnyi (former head of SBU’s couner-terrorist “Alpha” squad)
Viktor Ratushniak (former deputy minister of interior affairs)
Volodymyr Sivkovych (former deputy secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine)
Stanislav Shuliak (former BBVV chief)
Volodymyr Totskyi (former head of SBU’s counter-terrorism operations)
Oleh Tsariov (MP in ruling Party of Regions, publicly backed use of force against protesters)
Oleksandr Shchogoliev (former head of Kiev branch of SBU)
Members of Yanukovych familia
Mykola Azarov (former prime minister)
Raisa Bohatyriova (former health minister)
Oleksandr Efremov (Party of Regions MP)
Anatoliy Holovin (former president of the Constitutional Court)
Yuriy Ivanushchenko (Party of Regions MP, alleged to control Yanukovych's regional “barons”)
Serhiy Kliuyev (businessman and brother of Yanukovych’s former chief of staff)
Oleksandr Klymenko (former chief of tax administration)
Vadym Kolisnichenko (deputy chairman of Party of Regions, who backed 15-year prison terms for protesters)
Serhiy Kurchenko (Ukrainian businessman)
Viktor Medvedchuk (main mediator between Yanukovych and Russian leader Vladimir Putin)
Volodymyr Oliynyk (Party of Regions MP, who backed 15-year prison terms for protesters)
Eduard Stavitskyi (former minister of ecology and natural resources)
Dmytro Tabachnyk (former education minister)
Oleksandr Yanukovych (former president’s older son)
Viktor Yanukovych (former president)
Viktor Yanukovych jr. (former president’s younger son)