Russia’s three major banks announced last week that they had decided to sue the European Union over the sanctions that were imposed on them as part of the Western retaliatory action aimed to make the Kremlin cooperate in the Ukrainian crisis. State-run Sberbank said in an official statement that it took the case to the EU’s Court of Justice in Luxembourg to overturn the EU’s adoption of “restrictive measures against the bank”. Sberbank’s announcement was immediately followed by the statements of Russia’s second biggest lender, VTB, and the development bank Vneshekonombank saying that they had filed similar suits against Brussels.
The EU struck five of the country’s major banks and financial institutions with sanctions aimed to curb lenders’ access to important European bond markets over Moscow’s reported support for separatist groups in eastern Ukraine. The steps by the three banks roughly overlap with similar moves taken by Rosneft, Russia’s oil giant, as well as business tycoon Arkady Rotenberg, who is moreover a close aide of President Vladimir Putin.
The suits are a direct response to the EU’s sanctions against Russia imposed in the summer. The latest batch of punitive measures targeted specifically major Russian companies in the sector of finance, defense, energy, and arms trade. The 28-country block also blacklisted a host of people who have been targeted with visa bans and asset freezes. The majority of the blacklisted figures are close to President Putin as well as rebel groups in the annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. The European Council, representing the EU member states, has however previously stated that it would do its utmost to defend the measures which were “imposed over Russia’s role in destabilizing eastern Ukraine”.