April 14. 2024. 7:15

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EU court removes mother of Russia’s Wagner Group chief from sanctions list

The mother of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin and the head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group fighting in Ukraine, won a challenge in a top EU court on Wednesday (8 March) to be removed from the bloc’s sanctions list.

The EU blacklisted Violetta Prigozhina in February last year, saying business links with her son made her complicit in Russia’s aggression against its neighbour.

Prigozhina had “supported actions and policies which undermine the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine” through her son and companies, such as Concord Management and Consulting LLC., linked to him.

On Wednesday, the EU General Court, the bloc’s second-highest tribunal, granted a challenge to annul her inclusion on the list.

“The General Court annuls the restrictive measures applied to Ms Violetta Prigozhina, mother of Mr Yevgeniy Prigozhin, in the context of Russia’s war against Ukraine,” the bloc’s second-highest court said.

In a statement, the EU General Court said that even if Prigozhin “is responsible for actions undermining the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine,” the link between mother and son “is based solely on their family relationship and is therefore not sufficient to justify her inclusion on the contested lists”.

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

Known as ‘Putin’s chef’ for his background in the restaurant business in Saint Petersburg and subsequent Kremlin catering contracts, Prigozhin over the past year had played a leading role in the Russian president’s invasion of Ukraine.

Prigozhin is the leader of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, a private military company active in various countries around the world and notably Ukraine, where it is fighting alongside regular units as part of Moscow’s invasion.

The Wagner Group’s tactics have represented a departure from conventional Russian methods, as Prigozhin added thousands of inexperienced prison convicts to his forces, offering them exoneration once their service was complete.

Prigozhin’s private militia has led much of the heaviest fighting for the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.

The ruling came also came as Prigozhin claimed in a social media post that Wagner forces had captured the eastern part of the besieged Ukrainian town after intense fighting.

The United States earlier in January have stepped up sanctions against the Wagner Group, labelling the Russian mercenary company fighting in Ukraine as a transnational criminal organisation responsible for widespread human rights abuses.