A top E.U. court has rejected a bid by Kremlin-linked oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, alleged financier of the Wagner mercenary group, to overturn sanctions imposed over the conflict in Libya.
Prigozhin had challenged the E.U.’s decision of 15 October 2020 to freeze his assets in the European Union and to place him on a visa blacklist over the deployment of Wagner fighters to the war-torn north African country.
According to the ruling, Prigozhin was ” providing support for Wagner Group’s activities in Libya,” which involved “multiple and repeated breaches of the arms embargo in Libya” established in 2011.
Wagner participated in “multiple military operations against the U.N.-endorsed Government of National Accord,” according to the U.N..
However, Prigozhin claimed he had “no knowledge of an entity known as the Wagner Group” and said the E.U. had failed to justify the move.
But the E.U.’s General Court rejected his case and confirmed the sanctions against him, referring to an extensive 548 page report by a Panel of Experts dated 8 March 2021 which mentions “an estimated deployment of 800 to 1,200 Wagner operatives during 2019 and 2020” in Libya.
The report gives details of extensive contacts between Prigozhin and Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar and publishes pictures where the two are seen together.
A year after it sanctioned Prigozhin, on 13 December 2021, the E.U. Council added a “set of restrictive measures against the Wagner Group,” including individuals and three entities connected to it. Brussels accuses the group of training and sending operatives “to conflict zones around the world to fuel violence, loot natural resources and intimidate civilians in violation of international law”.
The individuals include Aleksandr Kuznetsov, a Wagner commander, who was active in Libya in 2019.
Dimitriy Utkin is the founder of the Wagner group and “responsible for coordinating and planning operations for the deployment of Wagner Group mercenaries in Ukraine”.
Denis Kharitonov and Sergey Shcherbakov fought in Donbas in the separatist Steppe battalion, where they “actively supported actions and implemented policies, which undermine and threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine”.
Andrey Troshev and Andrey Bogatov were active in Syria where they “supported and benefitted the Syrian regime”.
The three private companies affected by EU sanctions are Velada LLC, Mercury LLC and Evro Polis LLC all active in oil and gas development in Syria.
Prigozhin himself, reputedly a top ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was also sanctioned by the EU in April 2022 over the Ukraine invasion and is blacklisted by Washington for meddling in the U.S. elections
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