The European Union has named and blacklisted two Russian military commanders who it said led troops involved in atrocities in Ukraine, describing the pair as the “butchers” of the town of Bucha and Mariupol city.
The latest EU blacklist, released on Friday, targets an 65 additional people for sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The sanctions also included banning most Russian oil imports to the EU, and removed Russia’s top lender Sberbank from the international SWIFT payments system.
Among the individuals named on the list is Azatbek Omurbekov, who the EU said led Russian troops as they “killed, raped and tortured civilians in Bucha”, earning him the nickname “Butcher of Bucha”.
Also named is Mikhail Mizintsev, a Russian general the EU said oversaw the siege and bombardment of Mariupol city that killed thousands of civilians.
Russian rocket and artillery attacks on the port city hit a maternity hospital and a theatre, killing hundreds of children, said the EU, who dubbed Mizintsev “the Butcher of Mariupol”.
Russia has denied killing civilians in Bucha and Mariupol, claiming that evidence of civilian killings and the theatre bombing and maternity hospital attack were staged to incriminate Moscow.
Kyiv and its Western allies have accused Russia of attempting to deflect blame for the atrocities carried out by its forces in Ukraine.
Another prominent addition to the EU blacklist, which now includes more than 1,100 names in total, is Alina Kabaeva, a former Olympic medallist in gymnastics and then a member of parliament with Putin’s United Russia party.
In 2008, the Russian newspaper, Moskovsky Korrespondent, named Kabaeva as Putin’s girlfriend. Putin rejected the assertion. The newspaper closed soon after the article appeared.
‘Lack of independence’
The EU also listed Elizaveta and Nikolay Peskov, children of Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, as well as Peskov’s wife – former ice skating champion Tatiana Navka.
Peskov was quoted by Russia’s state TASS news agency as saying the EU proved its “lack of independence” in blacklisting his family after the United States had done so. He said his daughter had studied in France and was fond of the country but was now working and living in Russia.
Aleksandra Melnichenko, the wife of Russian billionaire businessman Andrey Melnichenko, was also named on the list after she became the beneficial owner of her husband’s firms.
The businessman was blacklisted in March but sought to avoid business damage for his companies – fertiliser producer EuroChem and coal company SUEK – by reassigning ownership of his firms to his wife through a chain of trusts stretching from Moscow to Bermuda, a Reuters news agency investigation showed.
“In March 2022, Aleksandra Melnichenko replaced her husband as the beneficial owner of Firstline Trust, managed by Linetrust PTC Ltd, a company which represents the ultimate owner of EuroChem Group,” the EU noted on Friday.
The latest sanctions also hit Arkady Volozh, who immediately stepped down as chief executive of Yandex – the Russian internet giant where state-owned banks, including Sberbank, own a stake, the EU said. Yandex, which is not subject to EU sanctions, has promoted state narratives and lowered the visibility of content critical of the Kremlin, including on the war in Ukraine, the EU said.
Yandex shares fell by as much as 10 percent following the EU announcement on Friday, which came on the 100th day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The firm’s share later recovered to a 6 percent loss.
The EU also hit Russia’s National Settlement Depository, which Moscow planned to use to service the country’s Eurobonds after Citibank withdrew, raising the risk of a major external debt default by Russia.