Brussels has accused Viktor Yanukovich and his son of undermining the nation's independence
The European Council added former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and his son Aleksandr to its sanctions list on Thursday. They accused the former leader, who was ousted during the 2014 coup, of playing a role in "undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine," as well as its "stability and security."
The council did not elaborate why exactly Yanukovich was added to the sanctions list but instead just called him "pro-Russian." His son was accused of "conducting transactions with the separatist groups" in Donbass.
Previously, the only Ukrainian nationals sanctioned by the EU were those serving in various government positions in territories Russia took under its control during the military operation in Ukraine, launched on February 24.
Yanukovich was granted asylum in Russia after he was forced to flee Ukraine following the February 2014 Maidan coup. In 2019, a Ukrainian court sentenced him in absentia to 13 years in prison on treason charges. At the time, the former president blamed the Ukrainian authorities for exercising "unprecedented pressure" on the court and said the decision had "nothing to do with the law."
In March this year, some Ukrainian media outlets claimed that Russia was planning to reappoint Yanukovich as Ukraine's president, offering no evidence to back up that assertion.
The EU has targeted Yanukovich and his son before. In March 2021, the European Council extended personal restrictions imposed against them back in 2014 over alleged embezzlement of Ukraine's state funds, freezing their assets. However, the former president won a court battle against the EC in June that year.
Yanukovich has not yet commented on the EU's newest decision. Neither has the government in Moscow.
Most people targeted by the personal sanctions imposed by the EU as well as the US and some of their allies across the world are Russian military commanders and politicians as well as businessmen the West declared to be close to the Kremlin and their family members.
The latest round of sanctions adopted by the EU in mid-July also involved personal restrictions against Russian actors Sergey Bezrukov and Vladimir Mashkov, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, and the leader of the Night Wolves biker club Aleksandr Zaldostanov, who was accused of "actively supporting Russian state propaganda through publicly denying Ukraine's right to statehood."
Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev's failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian president Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev's main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and "create powerful armed forces."
In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.