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Russian businessmen linked to Alfa Group win court case over EU sanctions

Russian businessman and co-founder of Alfa-Group Mikhail Fridman.
Russian businessman and co-founder of Alfa-Group Mikhail Fridman. Copyright AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin
Copyright AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin
By Euronews with AP
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Judgment comes amid calls to use oligarchs' seized assets to fund Ukraine's war effort.

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Two Russian businessmen have won a court case challenging an EU decision to sanction them over their alleged role in Russia's war against Ukraine.

The EU General Court said a lack of evidence justified Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven's removal from the list of persons subject to restrictive measures between February 2022 and March 2023.

Fridman founded Alfa Group and is ranked as one of Russia's wealthiest tycoons. 

The group's Alfa Bank, Russia's largest nonstate bank, was sanctioned by the EU in March 2022, and Fridman left the board after to try to help the bank skirt sanctions.

Aven headed Alfa Bank until March 2022, but like Fridman left the board after the EU imposed sanctions.

In March last year, the EU kept Aven and Fridman on the list for restrictive measures. The two have also challenged that decision in separate cases still pending.

Brussels has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia since Putin ordered his troops into Ukraine. 

The measures have targeted the energy sector, banks, the world's biggest diamond-mining company, businesses and markets, and subjected Russian officials – including Vladimir Putin – to asset freezes and travel bans.

Aven, of Russian and Latvian nationality, and Fridman, who holds Russian and Israeli passports, were placed on the list for restrictive measures after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The General Court has concluded their inclusion was not justified because there was not enough evidence they provided material or financial support to Russian decision-makers, or were associated with war efforts undermining Ukraine.

Fridman has decried the war as a tragedy and called for the "bloodshed" to end. He has previously lived in Britain but reportedly returned to Moscow after fighting between Israel and Hamas began last October.

"The General Court considers that none of the reasons set out in the initial acts is sufficiently substantiated and that the inclusion of Mr Aven and Mr Fridman on the lists at issue was therefore not justified," the Luxembourg-based court said in a statement.

Rulings by the General Court can be appealed to the European Court of Justice.

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