THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CN) — The link between the founder of the Russian paramilitary organization Wagner Group and his 83-year-old mother is not sufficient enough to justify sanctions against her, an EU court ruled Wednesday.
In a ruling available in French, the General Court found it illegal Wednesday to punish Violetta Prigozhina based on a strictly familial connection.
Brussels first imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 21 officials in March 2014 in response to Russia’s seizure of the Black Sea peninsula. Since the full-scale invasion in 2022, the EU has expanded the list to include 205 organizations and 1,473 individuals. Among this group are Russian President Vladimir Putin, his so-called chef Yevgeny Prigozhin and Prigozhin's Wagner Group.
The 61-year-old Russian oligarch got his nickname because he made his fortune in the food service industry. Early last year, his Wagner Group helped Moscow keep its distance from beginning operations in Ukraine by using mercenary forces to intervene in the country.
Prigozhin has a reputation for being especially cruel. After a grizzly video surfaced of Wagner defector Yevgeny Nuzhin being murdered with a sledgehammer, Prigozhin issued a statement calling the execution “A dog’s death for a dog.” For its conduct in the Central African Republic, Libya, Syria and Ukraine, the Wagner Group has been accused of violating international law.
EU officials consider Prigozhina the co-owner of several of her son’s businesses and says her various financial connections make her a legitimate target for sanctions. She complained to the Luxembourg-based court that Brussels had no justification for targeting her.
The three-judge panel agreed. She was sanctioned “based solely on their family relationship, which … is not sufficient to justify her inclusion on the contested lists,” the court wrote.
In February, the Financial Times reported that Prigozhin had dodged sanctions in the United Kingdom by listing utilities in his mother’s name.
Many Russian officials have appealed the sanctions to EU courts in Luxembourg, mostly without success. In 2015, the General Court mostly upheld sanctions against Arkady Rotenberg, Putin’s former judo sparring partner, for his involvement in engineering companies operating in annexed parts of Ukraine. Last year, the court also upheld sanctions against Prigozhin for his involvement in human rights abuses in Libya via the Wagner Group.
One level up from the General Court, the European Court of Justice has also confirmed sanctions against Russian banks, Russian oil company Rosneft and Kremlin-funded media outlet RT.
The United States and the United Kingdom have issued sanctions of their own. The European Union unveiled its 10th package of sanctions against Russia last month.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.