(CN) – An EU court thawed the assets of a one-time adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, finding EU lawmakers had little evidence that he had embezzled the beleaguered nation’s funds to blacklist him.
Responding to the Ukrainian crisis that began in late 2013, the European Council froze the assets of people deemed responsible for misappropriation of government funds and human rights abuses in the former Soviet republic.
Among those blacklisted was Andriy Portnov, described by lawmakers as an adviser to Yanukovych. The council froze his assets solely because he was the subject of a criminal investigation into the embezzlement and transfer of Ukrainian government money to accounts outside the nation.
Portnov sued the council to remove his name from the blacklist, which happened anyway earlier this year.
But the European General Court on Monday ruled that the council used insufficient evidence – a 2014 letter from the public prosecutor’s office of the Ukraine saying only that Portnov was one of several being investigated for making it possible to embezzle the government funds. The letter provided no facts to justify the council’s freezing of Portnov’s assets, the court ruled.
The court’s ruling was not made available in English.
Yanukovych’s decision to suspend the Ukraine-European Union association agreement and seek closer ties with Russia in 2013 led to protests that led to a full-scale revolution and Yanukovych’s outser in 2014.
The fall of the Yanukovych government led Russian president Vladimir Putin to send troops to the Crimea region of eastern Ukraine, which he annexed with loyalists’ help in March 2014. Several other cities and regions in the eastern part of the nation also joined a Russia-led insurgency
While Russia has long denied the presence of its organized military units in the Ukraine, earlier this month the Russian defense minister admitted that special forces were being pulled out of the Ukraine and sent to Putin’s latest project: Syria.
Meanwhile, local elections held Sunday indicated continued support for current president Petro Poroshenko in the north and west, while pro-Russia separatists still loyal to Yanukovych in the south and east supported the so-called Opposition Bloc.
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