BRUSSELS: The European Union on Thursday froze assets held in the 28-nation bloc by 18 Ukrainians accused of embezzlement, including ousted Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych.
The freeze, decided Wednesday, targets people “identified as responsible” for misappropriating Ukrainian state funds, an EU statement said.
Later Thursday, EU leaders were to hold an emergency summit in Brussels to discuss the crisis in Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, now under de-facto control of pro-Russia forces.
The sanctions, which will apply for an initial 12 months, “also contain provisions facilitating the recovery of the frozen funds,” the statement added, without offering further details.
But an EU source said member states would be able to return seized money only if Ukraine first issued judicial rulings identifying the missing funds.
All those named were cited for “embezzlement of Ukrainian state funds and their illegal transfer outside Ukraine.”
Other than Yanukovych, who has taken refuge in Russia, the list names his son Oleksandr and 16 members of the former regime, including ministers and his attorney general.
Swiss authorities had already ordered a freeze on the assets of both Yanukovych and the multi-millionaire Oleksandr, as well as 18 other former ministers and officials from Ukraine.
Liechtenstein has also frozen the bank accounts of the same officials, while Austria has announced moves against 18 Ukrainian officials suspected of violating human rights and involvement in corruption.
The EU’s foreign ministers had already decided on February 20 to apply sanctions to any Ukrainian officials deemed responsible for violence against protesters in the days leading up to Yanukovych’s ouster.
But at emergency talks this week, the same ministers agreed “to swiftly work on the adoption of restrictive measures for the freezing and recovery of assets of persons identified as responsible for the misappropriation of state funds.”