EU court upholds sanctions on Ukraine’s Yanukovich

Yanukovich attends a news conference in Rostov-on-Don

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The EU’s second-highest court upheld on Thursday sanctions imposed on Ukraine’s ousted president Viktor Yanukovich, who fled the country in 2014 after a popular uprising.

Yanukovich, who fled to Russia, challenged the European Union’s sanctions on charges of embezzlement and financial wrongdoing that meant losing access to his funds held in European banks and those of one of his sons.

“The General Court confirms the freezing of funds imposed for the period from March 6, 2015 until March 6, 2016,” the court said in a statement. The European Union has extended the sanctions until March 2017, which Yanukovich has also challenged and the case is ongoing.

However, Yanukovich did win his challenge to the sanctions for the March 2014 to March 2015 period because EU governments did not provide enough proof, basing the measures only on a letter from Ukraine’s prosecutor.

The European Council representing EU governments provided more proof for the extension of sanctions for the following period, allowing them to stand, the court said.

All funds remain frozen and the annulment amounts only to a technicality, according to a person familiar with the judgment. Typically in such a case, any interest payments due are paid into a frozen account.

Interpol has put Yanukovich on the international wanted list at the behest of Kiev authorities, although Moscow is not expected to extradite him. Yanukovich has denied any involvement in corruption. He can appeal against the ruling to the EU’s top court within the next two months.

(Reporting by Robin Emmott; editing by Francesco Guarascio)