Monday 18 December 2017

Ukraine crisis: EU agrees sanctions against Viktor Yanukovych as leaders hold summit

Ukraine's ousted president Viktor Yanukovych is among 18 people hit by EU sanctions (AP)
Ukraine's ousted president Viktor Yanukovych is among 18 people hit by EU sanctions (AP)

The European Union today froze the assets of ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich, former prime minister Mykola Azarov and 16 other senior Ukrainian officials suspected of misusing state funds and violating human rights.

In a legal filing published in the European Union's Official Journal, the EU said that "all funds and economic resources belonging to, owned, held or controlled" by the people listed was now frozen within the 28-nation union.

The announcement follows a decision taken last month by EU foreign ministers in response to the collapse of the Ukrainian government and Yanukovich's flight into exile following a crackdown on protesters in Kiev in which scores killed.

Ukraine's new prime minister, Arseny Yatseniuk, has said Yanukovich embezzled as much as $37 billion during three years in office.

In its filing, the EU said Yanukovich's assets were being frozen "in connection with the embezzlement of Ukrainian state funds and their illegal transfer outside Ukraine".

Among the other prominent names on the sanctions list are Viktor Pshonka, Ukraine's former prosecutor general; Oleksandr Yakymenko, the former head of the security service; and Olena Lukash, the former minister of justice.

The sons of Yanukovich and Azarov were also on the list.

Mr Yatseniuk was due to meet EU leaders in Brussels at 10:30 today to discuss the next steps to help Ukraine and its struggling economy get back on its feet.

An emergency EU summit in Brussels is unlikely to adopt more than symbolic measures against Russia, Europe's biggest gas supplier, because neither industrial powerhouse Germany or financial centre Britain are keen to start down that road.

The United States has said it is ready to impose sanctions such as visa bans, asset freezes on individual Russian officials and restrictions on business ties within days rather than weeks.

High-level diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis made little apparent headway at talks in Paris last night with Moscow and Washington at odds and Russia's foreign minister refusing to recognise his Ukrainian counterpart.

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