EU court lifts sanctions on Russian billionaires Petr Aven and Mikhail Fridman

Petr Aven (left) and Mikhail Fridman. Photo: LetterOne Group / Earflaps / Wikimedia

Petr Aven (left) and Mikhail Fridman. Photo: LetterOne Group / Earflaps / Wikimedia

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has lifted sanctions imposed on the billionaire co-founders of Russia’s Alfa Group, Petr Aven and Mikhail Fridman, state-owned news outlet RIA Novosti reported on Wednesday.


A spokesman for the CJEU told Reuters on Wednesday that the sanctions that had been appealed had already expired, adding that Fridman and Aven remained under EU sanctions because the punitive measures against them were since “rolled over” in March 2023 and then again last month. Both have appealed the extension, but it would take the CJEU months to consider their appeal, Reuters added.

Aven and Fridman, two of Russia’s most prominent businessmen whose portfolio includes stakes in multiple banks, insurance companies, retail operators, oil companies and telecommunications providers, were placed on the EU’s sanctions list immediately after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

With personal net worths estimated at €5.9 billion and €12 billion respectively by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, both Aven and Fridman currently live abroad and have long denied suggestions that they are close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Despite having left Russia, Fridman and Aven still own large stakes in Alfa Group, though both men left its board of directors in March 2022.

The CJEU found that “none of the reasons set out in the initial acts is sufficiently substantiated and that the inclusion of Mr Aven and Mr Fridman on the lists at issue was therefore not justified.”

In March 2023, it was revealed that the director of Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), Leonid Volkov, had written to Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in 2022 asking him to intercede to lift sanctions on Aven and Fridman. Amid a furore, Volkov left his post at the FBK shortly after the letter came to light.

On Wednesday, Volkov said that by asking for sanctions on the two men to be lifted, he had been hoping to set a precedent that members of Russia’s elites who publicly denounced Putin and condemned the war in Ukraine would be provided with an escape route. However, Volkov expressed his frustration that both men had got what they wanted without having explicitly done either.

“Fridman and Aven have never said a word against the war in public, nor have they entered into a conflict with Putin,” Volkov wrote.

“The EU court has just given them what they wanted on a silver platter. And to what end? What kind of signal is the court sending to Putin, his friends, Russian oligarchs? … ‘Hire more European lawyers and lobbyists.’ … This is all very, very bad.” Volkov said.

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