December 7, 2023

The mother of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of Russia’s Wagner Group military company, was on Wednesday excluded from the European Union’s sanctions list by the bloc’s General Court.

“Despite the fact that the latter (Yevgeny Prigozhin) is responsible for actions that have undermined the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, Ms. Prigozhina’s link with her son, which was established at the time of the adoption of the restrictive measures, is based only on their relationship, and is therefore not sufficient to justify her inclusion in the restrictive measures,” the General Court said in its ruling.

Violetta Prigozhina, 83, was added to the bloc’s sanctions list following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, with EU member states arguing she is the owner of several undertakings with links to her son, such as Concord Management and Consulting LLC.

The Wagner paramilitary organisation, founded by Prigozhin, has close ties to the Kremlin and largely operates outside the law with accusations of war crimes and human rights abuses reported in the various theatres it has been involved in including Syria, Libya and Ukraine where it has backed pro-Russian separatists since 2014.

For EU member states, these “links” between mother and son meant she therefore supported the actions and policies that undermine the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. 

Being on the EU’s sanctions list means Prigozhina had her EU assets frozen and could no longer enter or transit through the bloc. 

She challenged her addition to the sanctions list which the General Court validated on Wednesday, stating that “it is apparent from the case file that Ms Prigozhina has no longer been the owner of Concord Management and Consulting since 2017, even though she had held shares in that undertaking.”

“In addition, the Council (of the European Union) fails to demonstrate that she owned other undertakings with links to her son on the date of the adoption of the contested acts.”

“Consequently, the link that would amount to an association between the two persons established at the time of the adoption of the contested acts and upon which the Council relied on that date is based solely on their family relationship, which, in view of the criterion applied by the Council in the present case, the statement of reasons on which the contested acts are based and the case-law of the Court of Justice, is not sufficient to justify her inclusion on the contested lists,” it added.

The Council of the European Union has two months to appeal the decision. 

This could be the first of many such rulings as 103 complaints over sanctions were lodged at the European Court of Justice in 2022, representing 11.4% of the total number of cases brought in 2022, up from 4.8% in 2021 and 3% in 2020.

Three-quarters of these complaints — 77 — are related to the war in Ukraine.

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