The General Court of the European Union has annulled EU sanctions against Violetta Prigozhina, the mother of the head of the Wagner militia Yevgeny Prigozhin. Even though her son is responsible for actions that undermine the integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, according to the verdict published on Wednesday, the measures against the mother were based solely on her family relationship, which is not sufficient as a reason.

Thomas Gutschker

Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries, based in Brussels.

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The court thus confirmed earlier decisions in another case. It also closed the door to a blanket extension of sanctions to relatives of decision-makers and oligarchs, for which Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) has campaigned. In the coming weeks, there could be further judgments of this kind, with a total of 103 lawsuits filed in Luxembourg last year against EU sanctions decisions, most of them in connection with Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine.

On February 23, 2022, one day before the war began, Violetta Prigozhina was added to the sanctions list that has existed since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. The Council of the European Union, which is responsible for sanctions decisions, justified this by stating that it owned Concord Management and Consulting, founded by her son, as well as other companies related to her son.

However, the General Court, the lower instance of the Court of Justice of the European Union, could not find sufficient evidence of this. It is clear from the documents before the Court that Ms Prigoschina, 61 years old, has not owned the undertaking in question since 2017, even though she still holds shares in it. The Council may object to the decision. Otherwise, Prigoschina would be allowed to travel back to the EU, any assets would have to be released.

Yevgeny Prigozhin himself failed in June last year with a lawsuit in Luxembourg. This had been directed against his listing at the end of 2020 in connection with human rights violations of the Wagner militia in Libya. In September, the court also dismissed his claim against him being named as a financier of the Wagner Group. Since April 2022, Prigozhin has also been listed in connection with Russian aggression against Ukraine.