The European Union’s second-highest court struck down an asset freeze on two former Ukraine prime ministers and three other people tied to ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, but four of the five people will stay on the bloc’s sanctions list for now.
The court accepted appeals against the EU asset freeze by former prime ministers Mykola Azarov and Serhiy Arbuzov as well as Mr. Arbuzov’s son, Oleksiy. Serhiy Klyuyev, the brother of a former top aide to Mr. Yanukovych and former energy minister Eduard Stavytsky also won their appeals against sanctions the EU adopted to stop the misappropriation of state funds.
The decision was the latest blow to the sanctions the EU placed on Mr. Yanukovych’s inner circle in the chaotic days after the former president fled Ukraine amid a political crisis in the country. Days later, Russia moved to annex Crimea. The EU’s hope was to freeze stolen funds so that they could eventually be recovered and returned to Ukrainian coffers.
However at the time, the EU also relisted a number of the Ukrainians targeted on slightly different grounds.
That means that Mr. Azarov, Mr. Arbuzov, Mr. Klyuyev and Mr. Stavytsky will remain on the EU’s sanctions list until at least March 6, when the asset freezes expire. The sanctions could be rolled over.
Mr. Azarov, Mr. Arbuzov and Mr. Klyuyev have appealed the EU’s relisting of them but the EU’s General Court has yet to decide on those cases.
The EU also has just over two months to decide whether to appeal Thursday’s ruling to the bloc’s top court, the European Court of Justice.
EU officials have acknowledged they moved quickly against targets identified by Kiev for fear that stolen assets would be taken out of the country as Mr. Yanukovych’s government collapsed.
For months, however, there was frustration in Brussels that Kiev hadn’t provided clear evidence against some of those targeted.