EU court sides with Wagner chief’s mother over sanctions case

Ukraine: Prigozhin says Bakhmut is ‘surrounded’ by Wagner

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The EU Court of Justice has deemed the sanctions that hit the mother of the leader of the Russian mercenary brigade Wagner invalid, saying that blood ties alone do not justify them, even if the son’s “actions undermine the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine”.

Violetta Prigozhina had been subject to sanctions in response to Russia’s aggression since last year.

Among the first people to be sanctioned by the EU, Ms Prigozhina sued the Council of the EU in April for failing to include specific reasons for listing her.

She also accused the bloc of making mistakes in the listings saying that is currently linked to a company her son partially owns.

She added that the listing was so imprecise she did not have a meaningful way to challenge it.

After hearing her case, the EU’s second-highest court, the General Court, ruled in her favour.

The court’s ruling comes as Yevgeniy Prigozhin claimed Wednesday that his troops have extended their gains in the key Ukrainian stronghold of Bakhmut as fierce fighting continues in the war’s longest battle.

Prigozhin said Wagner troops have taken full control of the eastern part of Bakhmut. He claimed that they now control all districts east of the Bakhmutka River that crosses the city in the eastern Donetsk region.

The centre of Bakhmut is located west of the river. Neither Russian nor Ukrainian officials commented on Prigozhin’s claim. The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think-tank that closely monitors the fighting in Ukraine, said in its latest analysis that “Russian forces have likely captured the eastern part of Bakhmut, east of the Bakhmutka River, following a controlled Ukrainian withdrawal from eastern Bakhmut as of March 7.”

The Wagner Group has spearheaded the Russian offensive in Bakhmut that has lasted for six months and reduced the city with a prewar population of more than 70,000 to a smouldering wasteland.

Russian troops have enveloped the city from three sides, leaving only a narrow corridor leading west. The only highway west has been targeted by Russian artillery fire, forcing Ukrainian forces defending the city to rely increasingly on country roads, which are hard to use before the muddy ground dries.

Ukrainian authorities have hailed the defenders of the “fortress Bakhmut,” and President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed Monday not to retreat from Bakhmut after chairing a meeting with his top generals.

For the Kremlin, capturing Bakhmut is essential for achieving its stated goal of taking control of the whole of Donetsk, one of the four Ukrainian regions that Moscow illegally annexed in September.

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Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday that the seizure of Bakhmut would allow Russia to press its offensive deeper into the region.

In a blustery video statement recorded near a landmark World War II T-34 tank monument from Bakhmut, Prigozhin said that the capture of the city would allow the Russian military to exploit the success and push deeper into the Donbas — the industrial region of eastern Ukraine that Russia claims — to make “the entire world shudder.”

But Western officials have emphasised that even if Ukrainian troops eventually retreat from Bakhmut, its capture will not have strategic significance or change the course of the conflict.

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