By Martin Santa
The European Union froze the assets on Thursday 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. ( http://r.reuters.com/tuk47v )
The sons of Yanukovich and Azarov were also on the list.
Yatseniuk was due to meet EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the next steps to help Ukraine and its struggling economy get back on its feet.
The EU has pledged around $15 billion in financial assistance to Ukraine, although that is contingent on Kiev agreeing terms with the International Monetary Fund.
On a separate issue Ukraine again flew its flag over the regional administration building in the eastern city of Donetsk on Thursday, and police said pro-Moscow demonstrators who had seized it had left overnight.
“It was recommended that people leave the building. Everyone left,” a police spokeswoman said.
Donetsk, home city of deposed President Viktor Yanukovich, has seen the most persistent pro-Moscow demonstrations in a wave of protests that erupted on Saturday hours before President Vladimir Putin declared Russia’s right to invade. Kiev says the protests in its eastern and southern cities were orchestrated by Moscow as justification for a possible assault.