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 EU's court upholds freezing of funds of Russian Almaz-Antey: "Russia supplies weapons to separatists in eastern Ukraine"

The General Court of the European Union has upheld sanctions against the Russian company Almaz-Antey Air and Space Defense, dismissing the unfreezing of its funds. The EU's highest judicial authority has thus acknowledged that Russia does supply arms to its surrogates in the occupied Donbas.

Censor.NET reports citing the court press statement.

"In response to the crisis in Ukraine, the Council adopted, in early 2014, restrictive measures against natural or legal persons whose activities are undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. In that context, the Council decided to freeze the funds of the Russian company Almaz-Antey," the statement reads.

It also outlines grounds the Council cites as defendant in this case. In particular, it mentions the fact that the state-controlled defense company manufactures anti-aircraft weaponry including surface-to-air missiles which it supplies to the Russian army.

"The Russian authorities have been providing heavy weaponry to separatists in eastern Ukraine, contributing to the destabilization of Ukraine. These weapons are used by the separatists, including for shooting down airplanes. As a state-owned company, Almaz-Antey therefore contributes to the destabilization of Ukraine," the Council states.

Almaz-Antey applied to the General Court to annul the continuation of the freezing of its funds for 2015 and 2016.

"The Court dismisses the action brought by Almaz-Antey and thus upholds the freezing of that company's funds," the statement notes.

It is emphasized that the freezing of funds of such entities makes it possible to reach the objective to prevent the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine.

By targeting such entities, the Council could legitimately expect that the hostile actions against Ukraine "cease or become more costly for those who undertake them."

According to the document, the Council also "established that Russia actually supplied weapons to separatists in eastern Ukraine."

"Almaz-Antey materially supports actions which undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine," the Court concludes.

Read more: Russia to reinforce its troops near Ukraine's border due to Donbas situation, - Russian Defense Minister Shoygu

Furthermore, the Council produced numerous press articles reporting on the shooting down of Ukrainian army aircraft and helicopters by the separatists, including, in particular, a military cargo-plane transporting 49 soldiers. Those press articles, which come from several different sources and are sufficiently specific, precise and consistent as regards the facts there described, corroborate the existence of Russian involvement in the conflict in Ukraine, in particular through the supply of weapons and military equipment to separatists in eastern Ukraine.

"Almaz-Antey has not called into question the purely factual information reported in those articles, nor has it even sought to establish in what way they are manifestly incorrect," the statement stresses.

Read more: Intercepted communications prove Russia sends military equipment into Ukraine, - Bellingcat

Finally, the Court considers that the Council was not required to demonstrate positively that the weapons which Almaz-Antey produced were used in Ukraine by separatists.

"Such evidence would be difficult to provide, in particular in a conflict situation where it is sometimes difficult to establish exactly the specific responsibilities and the types of weapons used by each of the warring parties. Furthermore, the Court recalls that the existence merely of a risk that an entity may act reprehensibly may be sufficient to impose an asset freeze on it," the Court says.

It is also stated that the downing of Malaysian Airlines jet in the skies over the Donetsk region did not impact on the decision in this case.

"As regards the destruction of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 killing 298 people on July 17, 2014, allegedly caused by a BUK missile, also manufactured by Almaz-Antey, the Court stated that the issue whether the destruction of that aeroplane must be imputed to the Ukrainian army or to the separatists is irrelevant, given that that incident was not decisive in the reasons given for the freezing of the funds of Almaz-Antey," the document notes.
   
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