The General Court of the European Union has lifted sanctions that were extended in 2016-2018 against seven members of the former Ukrainian ruling class, including Viktor Yanukovych, former President of Ukraine.

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The court ruling was made on July 11, 2019, according to an announcement on the court's website.

Lifted were the EU sanctions against ex-President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych, his son Oleksandr Yanukovych, ex-Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka, his son Artem Pshonka, ex-Minister of Revenue and Taxes Oleksandr Klymenko, ex-Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov, and ex-head of the presidential administration Andriy Klyuyev.

As the court said in a statement, they "were included, for the first time in 2014, on the list of persons subject to the freezing of funds, on the ground that they were subject to criminal proceedings in Ukraine to investigate crimes in connection with the embezzlement of Ukrainian State funds and their illegal transfer outside Ukraine."

But the said persons brought actions before the General Court contesting the acts extending the freezing of their funds in 2016 and 2017, in so far as Viktor Yanukovych and one of his sons are concerned, and in 2018, in so far as the other persons are concerned, on the ground, inter alia, that the Council of the European Union had failed to comply with the listing criteria.

"By today's judgments, the General Court upholds the actions brought by the Ukrainians by annulling the restrictive measures taken against them for those periods," the court said.

"First of all, the General Court, applying the case-law principles arising from the Court of Justice's judgement in [ex-PM of Ukraine and one of Yanukovych's ally Mykola] Azarov v Council, recalls that the EU judicature must review the lawfulness of all EU acts in the light of fundamental rights. In that connection, although the Council can base the adoption or maintenance of restrictive measures on a decision of a third State, it must itself verify that, in particular the rights of the defense and the right of effective judicial protection were complied with at the time of the adoption of the decision," it said.

"The General Court finds that the statement of reasons for the Council's acts extending the restrictive measures does not include a single reference to the fact that the Council verified compliance with such rights," it said.

The General Court concludes that none of the information before it establishes that the Council verified that the Ukrainian judicial authorities complied with the rights in question before extending the restrictive measures at issue. It therefore annuls the Council's acts extending the restrictive measures for the periods from March 6, 2016 to March 6, 2017 and from March 6, 2017 to March 6, 2018, with regard to Viktor Yanukovych and one of his sons, and from March 6, 2018 to March 6, 2019, with regard to the other Ukrainians concerned.