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27/09/2016

Putin’s judo partner hit by EU sanctions

Europe's East

Putin’s judo partner hit by EU sanctions

Putin is a keen fan of judo. The other man pictured is not Arkady Rotenburg, who is on the EU sanctions list. 11 September 2011. [Jedimentat44/Flickr]

The European Commission has published the names of eight Russians, including some of President Vladimir Putin’s associates, and three companies which will have their assets frozen as part of sanctions against Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine.

The people on the list include Arkady Rotenberg who is Putin’s long-time judo partner, and already on a US sanctions list since March.

Yury Kovalchuk and Nikolai Shamalov – the two largest shareholders in Bank Rossiya, a St. Petersburg company that expanded rapidly after Putin moved to Moscow and became president in 2000 – were also blacklisted.

The companies named include Russian National Commercial Bank, which was the first Russian bank into Crimea after the region’s annexation by Russia earlier this year.

The other two firms are anti-aircraft weapons maker Almaz-Antey and Dobrolyot airline, which operates flights between Moscow and Simferopol in the Crimea.

Tension between Moscow and the West over Russia’s backing for rebels in eastern Ukraine worsened after the downing of Malaysian flight MH17 over rebel-held territory on July 17 by what Western countries say was a Russian-supplied missile.

Wednesday’s list of names brings the number of people and entities subject to travel bans and asset freezes to 95 people and 23 organisations.

For more details of the sanctioned individuals and firms, click on the link to the EU’s Official Journal.

Background

The crisis in Ukraine erupted after its former President Viktor Yanukovich cancelled plans to sign trade and political pacts with the EU in November 2013 and instead sought closer ties with Russia, triggering protests that turned bloody and drove him from power.

Moscow annexed Crimea in March following a referendum staged after Russian forces established control over the Black Sea peninsula in the biggest East-West crisis since the Cold War.

Pro-Russian militants control buildings in more than ten towns in eastern Ukraine after launching their uprising on 6 April. On 11 May pro-Moscow rebels declared a resounding victory in a referendum in Donetsk and Luhansk, which the West called illegal and illegitimate.

The situation has worsened since then. In July, EU resolve to punish Russia strengthened after the downing in Ukraine earlier this month of a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane, killing all 298 people on board. 194 of the passengers were from the Netherlands.

Western leaders say pro-Russian rebels almost certainly shot the airliner down by mistake with a Russian-supplied surface-to-air missile. Moscow has blamed Kyiv for the tragedy.