Russian Oligarch Seeks $15.8 Billion in Damages Over Sanctions

Written by Camilla Jessen

May.22 - 2024 1:38 PM CET

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Mikhail Fridman, a Russian oligarch sanctioned by the EU after the Ukraine war, is demanding $15.8 billion in damages.

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Mikhail Fridman, a prominent Russian businessman, is reportedly seeking $15.8 billion in damages from Luxembourg.

The claim arises from the freezing of his assets following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a move he argues violates an investment protection agreement from the Gorbachev era.

Basis for the Claim

According to the Moscow daily Vedomosti, Fridman's claim is based on an investment protection agreement signed in 1989 between Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Soviet Union.

This agreement, designed to safeguard Western investments in the Soviet Union, is now being invoked by Fridman, as Russia is considered the Soviet Union's legal successor.

Fridman’s lawyers submitted the compensation request in February, seeking an "amicable settlement" with Luxembourg. If Luxembourg does not comply, Fridman intends to escalate the matter to an arbitration tribunal.

Sanctions and Legal Context

Fridman, along with fellow oligarch Pyotr Aven, was sanctioned by the EU on grounds of financially supporting Russian decision-makers and undermining Ukraine's territorial integrity.

However, in April, the two successfully challenged these sanctions in court. The judges ruled that the allegations were not sufficiently substantiated, making their inclusion in the sanctions list unjustified.

Despite this ruling, the EU's Council has already issued new sanctions against them, and the initial judgment can still be appealed to the European Court of Justice.

Fridman's demand, equivalent to around 14.6 billion euros, could be perceived as an elaborate move to exert pressure or "troll" the EU rather than a straightforward legal strategy. The substantial sum corresponds to the estimated value of his frozen assets, though it remains unclear why the amount is specified in dollars.

The 1989 agreement, concluded during Mikhail Gorbachev's tenure, aimed to protect investments amid the improving relations between East and West.

Fridman argues that by freezing his assets, Luxembourg breached this agreement.

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