Sanctioned businessman Eugene Shvidler lost his attempt on Friday to overturn UK-imposed sanctions at London’s High Court. In their Friday ruling, the court found the sanctions imposed on Shvidler following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to be lawful, disagreeing with his position that they were disproportionate and discriminatory. The case marks the first time a British court has heard a challenge to sanctions imposed over the war in Ukraine.
Judge Neil Garnham found that Shvidler failed to show that the UK government “failed to strike a fair balance between the rights of Mr. Shvidler and his family and the interests of the community.” He continued to state, “Whilst the effects of the designation are serious…they do not threaten his life or liberty. The effects…are temporary and reversible, not fixed and permanent.”
The UK imposed sanctions on Shvidler in March 2022, a month after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The sanctions were a part of a broader effort by the UK and its allies to apply pressure on Russia-linked oligarchs and officials. Shvidler, a Russian-born UK citizen, previously served on the board of a company known as EVRAZ plc, a multinational steel manufacturing and mining company owned by Russian oligarchs, such as Roman Ambramovich. On March 10, 2022, however, Shvidler resigned from his position with EVRAZ as a billionaire.
Shvidler contested the sanctions in London’s High Court because he claimed they caused him undue hardship and were discriminatory against him as a Russian-born individual. According to Shvidler’s legal counsel, he is not a Russian citizen, nor has he ever been. Shvidler also disputed claims from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) that his involvement with Ambramovich could have resulted his personal support of the Russian government.
In response to the Friday ruling, a spokesperson for the FCDO told JURIST, “We welcome this judgement. These sanctions have been carefully chosen to impact Putin’s capacity to fund his war, cripple supply chains and technological advancement, and target those who prop up Putin and his regime.” The FCDO also recognized that “[r]atcheting up economic pressure on Russia was always going to lead to challenges by some of those affected.” That said, the FCDO stood by their decision to impose the sanctions.
A member of Shvidler’s legal counsel, Michael O’Kane, told JURIST that Shvidler intends to appeal the High Court’s decision “at the earliest opportunity.” O’Kane continued:
As a UK citizen, UK sanctions have frozen [Shvidler’s] entire worldwide assets for an indeterminable period. The impact of this on him and his family is extreme and far-reaching….If this judgement stands, it will make it virtually impossible for any person sanctioned by the Foreign Secretary to bring a successful court challenge.
The court’s ruling comes shortly after a Thursday statement from UK deputy political coordinator Tom Phipps, who told the UN Security Council that, “President Putin has shown he is not serious about any peace that respects international law.” Phipps also reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to continuing to support Ukraine in its war against Russia.