2 Russian billionaires win the case: They got EU sanctions canceled

Russian businessmen Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven were sanctioned by the European Union for their alleged role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. They won their lawsuit and succeeded in having the sanctions against them annulled.

The EU General Court ruled that the evidence was insufficient. It upheld their request to be removed from the list of persons facing restrictive measures between February 2022 and March 2023.

“The General Court considers that none of the reasons set out in the initial proceedings have been sufficiently substantiated and therefore the inclusion of Mr. Aven and Mr. Fridman on the lists in question is not justified,” the Luxembourg-based court said in a statement.

The EU had kept Aven and Fridman on the list in March last year. The duo has challenged that decision in separate lawsuits that are currently ongoing.

They escaped sanctions without condemning the war

Let’s look at the details of the businesspeople.

Fridman co-founded Alfa Group and is one of Russia’s richest businessmen. When the group’s company Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest non-state bank, was sanctioned by the EU in March 2022, Fridman stepped down from the board to help the bank avoid sanctions. Aven remained at the helm of Alfa Bank until March 2022, but like Fridman, he left the board after the EU move.

Neither Fridman nor Aven directly criticized the war. Instead, they asked prominent anti-war Russians to sign a letter demanding the lifting of EU sanctions against them.

Leonid Volkov, chief of staff to Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, signed the letter and later said he regretted doing so.

Volkov says the decision to remove Fridman and Aven from the list is “very bad” because it shows that businessmen can get sanctions lifted without publicly criticizing Putin or the war in Ukraine.

Fridman has called the war a tragedy and called for an end to the “bloodshed”. Fridman, who previously lived in the UK, reportedly returned to Moscow after the start of hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

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