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EU sanctions deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych

EU sanctions deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych
The deposed Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, and his son Oleksandr Viktorovych Yanukovych were sanctioned by the European Union on Thursday over threatening the sovereignty of Ukraine. File Photo byAndrew Harrer/Pool/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 5 (UPI) -- Member states of the European Union have sanctioned deposed pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his son Oleksandr on accusations of undermining the sovereignty of Ukraine and for having done business with separatists groups that control the eastern Donbas region.

The EU said in a statement that its council, which directs the union's politics, added the pair Thursday amid Russia's war in Ukraine to its list of persons and entities subjected to restrictive measures, including travel bans and assets freezes.

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Viktor Yanukovych, 72, was president of Ukraine from 2010 until he was ousted in 2014 in anti-government protests that erupted over his last-minute rejection of an agreement to foster closer ties to Europe.

The Russia-backed president was also sentenced in absentia to 13 years in prison in 2019 after being found guilty of treason for requesting Russia's help to militarily suppress the protests that ultimately unseated him.

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The former president now resides in Russia from where the EU said he maintains he is still Ukraine's legitimate president.

The EU said sources indicate that during Russia's first phase of its war it had planned to replace current Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with Viktor Yanukovych.

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Other accusations made by the EU against Viktor Yanukovych include his support during his tenure at Kyiv's helm for pro-Russian politicians in Russia-occupied Crimea where he was also found in a trial last year to have reduced Ukraine's defensive capabilities.

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The bloc also described the letter he sent Russian President Vladimir Putin seeking help as an invitation for the Kremlin to invade Ukraine.

"Therefore, Viktor Yanukovych is responsible for supporting or implementing actions or policies, which threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine as well as the state's stability and security," the EU's official journal said.

His son Oleksandr Viktorovych Yanukovych was also sanctioned over doing business with Russian separatists who control Ukraine's Donbas region.

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Putin invaded Ukraine Feb. 24 under the pretext of a so-called special military operation to "denazify" Ukraine. In the months since, experts believe his focus has turned to Russian-separatist controlled Donbas with intent to annex it.

The EU said the 49-year-old fostered business interests in Donbas' energy, coal, construction, banking and real estate sectors during his father's presidency due their close ties with pro-Russian separatists.

Oleksandr still owns those businesses, which have brought him "a great fortune," the EU said.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the EU has adopted six sanctions packages targeting Russia with the aim to weaken its economic base and deprive it the ability to make war.

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In total, the EU has sanctioned more than 1,210 people and 100 entities since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Among those listed include Putin, Russia's Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov and a number of Russian oligarchs.

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