On February 6, 2023, the EU official journal published news about delisting Dmitry Ovsyannikov, the former governor of Sevastopol, from the sanctions list1. The exclusion was preceded by the decision2 of the EU court of 26 October 2022 following the review of Ovsyannikov's appeal.
Dmitry Ovsyannikov was included in the EU sanctions list since:
- he was elected governor of Sevastopol in the elections organized by the Russian Federation in the illegally annexed city
- made public statements in support of the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, calling for Sevastopol to ’become the capital of the south of Russia’
- served as Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation from the years 2019 to 2020
Challenging the restrictive measures Dmitry Ovsyannikov emphasized that before he began exercising his rights and responsibilities as an official (governor and deputy minister), he was not included in the sanctions lists. Consequently, these were the circumstances that led to the imposition of sanctions against him. In turn, it follows that the failure of these circumstances (the powers of Dmitry Ovsyannikov as governor of Sevastopol were terminated at his request, and subsequently the powers of the Deputy Minister) and not the residence in Crimea (but the residence in Moscow) and the subsequent distancing from the political regime should be the basis for the cancellation of the restrictions applied. The position also contained arguments in favor of the fact that the mere fact of leaving politics meant that Dmitry Ovsyannikov had no connection with the current political regime and had no influence on the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.
As a result, the court took the side of Dmitry Ovsyannikov. The arguments of the EU Council on preservation of political connections and influence even after the applicant in the case left the mentioned positions were not taken into account by the court.
It is interesting that the court also pointed out that the EU Council should independently monitor changes of the circumstances that contributed to the inclusion of a person in the list, rather than trying to impose such an obligation on an applicant. In addition, the court also drew attention to the fact that the mere fact of holding a certain position cannot directly mean that the person is closely connected with the decisions taken by the state with regard to Ukraine.
The Luxembourg court's conclusions contrast with the D.C. Circuit’s judgment
where the court basically granted OFAC with a right to apply sanctions without any proven grounds or evidence3.
1 The text is available here: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv%3AOJ.L_.2023.035.01.0001.01.ENG&toc=OJ%3AL%3A2023%3A035%3ATOC.
2 The text is available here: https://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=267566&pageIndex=0&doclang=FR&mode=req&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=5038290.
3 Overview of the most interesting Case Law on International Commercial Arbitration and Arbitration in the Context of Sanctions Restrictions (1st half of 2022): https://www.lidings.com/ru/media/publications/Legal%20Digest_ICAC_1-half-2022/.