International relations: A Russian energy giant and a Russian banker are fighting EU sanctions at the European Court of Justice in Kirchberg.
Russian energy firm Rosneft and Russian businessman Arkady Rotenberg are appealing the EU Ukraine-related sanctions against them at the European Court of Justice in Kirchberg.
On 31 July, the European Council, made up of EU member state presidents and prime ministers, imposed the third round of what it calls “restrictive measures” that barred Russian firms from European capital markets. Several Russian individuals were also barred from entering the EU and had their financial assets in the union frozen. Other measures were taken against Russia’s energy and military sectors.
The council imposed sanctions following Russia’s takeover of Crimea, unrest in eastern Ukraine and the downing of flight MH17 in July.
Rosneft--one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers which is majority owned by the Russian state--and Rotenberg--a billionaire banker and oil executive who is Russian president Vladimir Putin’s former judo sparring partner--seek to reverse the EU restrictions imposed on them.
The case has not been published in the EU journal, but was first reported by the Financial Times last week. On Monday, the ECJ website only confirmed that the Rosneft claim was filed on 9 October and Rotenberg’s case was lodged on 10 October.
According to the news agencies Bloomberg and Reuters, Rosneft needs to repay or refinance more than $26 billion in debt by the end of next year.
Russian media outlet RT, citing a TASS news agency report, reported that that: “On October 9, Rosneft announced a tender to law firms worth £17.7 million for five of legal work to help win the case”.
The FT article stated that the Italian bank accounts of Rotenberg--who is board chair of SMP Bank, one of Russia’s largest 40 lenders--had been frozen.
Council will defend sanctions
A spokeswoman for the European Council told Delano on Monday that it will defend the sanctions in court, and that the “restrictive measures imposed over Russia’s role in destabilising eastern Ukraine” will not be suspended during legal proceedings.
In recent months, the ECJ has partially rolled back EU sanctions against Belarus, Iran and Syria. But the council spokeswoman stated that: “The EU takes great care to ensure legal robustness when adopting restrictive measures and takes due account of relevant case-law of the court.”
“EU economic sanctions against Russia will be reviewed at the end of October, as agreed in July,” the council spokeswoman added.
A spokesman for Rosneft told Delano on Monday that the company had no comment.
As of this writing, Delano’s messages seeking comment from Rotenberg--left with SMP Bank--had not yet been returned.
The cases are T-715/14 (NK Rosneft and Others v Council) and T-720/14 (Rotenberg v Council).