When in 2017 A 77-year-old grandmother from St. Petersburg signed up for painting lessons, and to her classmates she might have appeared as just another retiree enjoying a late-night hobby.
However, already a year later, Violeta Prigožina opened her own art gallery “Gyvenimo svarje” in the city’s central Dižijai prospekt. She soon began exhibiting her paintings, hosting opening parties, and gaining national media attention.
Casual gallery visitors may not know that the artist has a famous son: Yevgeny Prigozhin, a hot dog vendor turned boss of a private military campaign who became a powerful warlord during Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The private army he founded, Wagner, has been accused of human rights abuses, including murder, rape and torture, and the US government has labeled his business empire an “international criminal organization”.
Before the invasion of Ukraine, Mr. Prigozhin’s own children could move freely around the EU and enjoy international luxury, although their father and his companies have been banned since 2016. Western sanctions were applied.
When Russian tanks entered Ukraine last year, the United States, the EU and the United Kingdom responded by imposing sanctions not only on leading figures close to the Kremlin, but also on their families. The two children of Mr. Prigožin and his wife are subject to US and EU sanctions, while his artist mother is sanctioned by the UK, EU and Canada for supporting Wagner.
Prigogina’s success in appealing the EU sanctions highlighted the legal complexities involved in holding family members of Kremlin-backed figures accountable for the actions of their relatives.
Last month, V. Prigožina, who is now 83 years old, achieved an unexpected victory in the EU court. Her lawyers convinced the judges of the first chamber of the EU General Court in Luxembourg that she had no economic ties to her son or his parent company, Concord. The restrictions against her were lifted and the Council of the EU was ordered to pay her legal costs.
Prigogina’s success in appealing the EU sanctions highlighted the legal complexities involved in holding family members of Kremlin-backed figures accountable for the actions of their relatives. The life his now-sanctioned children were able to enjoy in Europe before the invasion also raises questions about whether Western governments were indifferent to the Wagner boss.
“This is negligence,” Lithuanian MEP Petras Auštrevičius told the Financial Times. “Prigozhin and many Russian oligarchs and state officials openly worked against the West, while at the same time they and their families enjoyed Western luxuries.”
He believes that the soft approach to the Prigozhin family contributed to the fact that the Wagner boss was able to build such a large mercenary operation.
Not only using his father’s property
February 20 of last year. – four days before the invasion – a blonde Russian teenager took part in an amateur pole vaulting competition in the Mediterranean resort of Oliva, near Valencia, Spain. Veronika Prigožina is the younger of J. Prigožina’s two daughters.
Records compiled by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), the governing body of equestrian sport, show how since 2014 Veronika and Polina, the eldest daughter of J. Prigozhin, competed in competitions outside of Russia.
None of the horses that Prigožin’s daughters rode in this competition were registered under Mr. Prigožin’s name.
in 2019 At the end of the year, after sanctions were imposed on Mr. Prigozhin’s personal assets, including his private plane, almost all the horses ridden by his two daughters were suddenly re-registered with the Russian Equestrian Federation in the names of other individuals.
Mr. Prigožin’s closest family members are not just passive recipients of his wealth. Last year, the US said that Polina, his son Pavel and wife Lyubov “play various roles in Prigozhin’s business enterprise” that takes advantage of “his privileged status among the Russian elite”.
Pavel, according to his father’s social media posts, fought alongside Wagner in Syria and was awarded the “Black Cross” of the military campaign.
Russian company registers show that all of Prigozhin’s children had shares in their father’s companies, which they frequently exchanged.
The challenge for the EU
The EU hoped to make up for lost time and last year applied sanctions to members of Mr. Prigozhin’s family. However, these sanctions turned out to be less severe than initially expected.
However, the decision of the EU court in favor of J. Prigožin’s mother may not be the last word. An EU official says that Brussels can appeal the decision of the European Court of Justice within two months.
Wagner does not exist as a single registered entity, but as a sprawling network of inter-operating companies that are to varying degrees related to his Concord group. One of the most important entities is called Concord Management and Consulting, the other is Concord Catering.
This mysterious structure has become a challenge for Western governments trying to limit its activities.
As stated in the appeal of J. Prigožin’s mother Violeta regarding EU sanctions, her only participation in her son’s business was manifested in the fact that since 2008 until 2017 she held shares in Concord Management and Consulting and she said she had no influence over the company at the time.
The EU judges agreed and, based on the evidence before them, concluded that her only ties to her son were familial and there was no demonstrable economic connection between them.
However, documents and accounts of Violeta’s art gallery companies reveal several overlaps between her and her son’s business empire. According to her Russian tax documents, in 2021 the gallery was audited by the tiny St. Petersburg consulting company “Accent”, which in 2022 reported slightly less than 200 thousand. annual turnover and five employees.
In her statement to the EU court, V. Prigožina stated that she never had any contact with the rest of her son’s network of companies.
But leaked emails reveal her husband was a senior manager at another Concord group company. He died last year.
Not the end
However, the decision of the EU court in favor of J. Prigožin’s mother may not be the last word. An EU official says that Brussels can appeal the decision of the European Court of Justice within two months. According to the official, he will have three options: permanently remove V. Prigozhina from the sanctions list, appeal the court’s decision, or re-apply sanctions to her after presenting other evidence.
J. Prigožin himself continues to resent the Western attempts to punish his family.
Since his family now lives mostly in Russia, there are signs that Prigozhin is developing new ways to evade sanctions.
Younger daughter Veronika, who was born in March. turned 18, is currently the only member of his immediate family not subject to Western sanctions, and the Prigozhin family seems to have taken advantage of that.
Russian company registers show that at the end of last year, Veronika became the owner of a company that controls a hotel in St. Petersburg.
Source: 15min.lt RSS – suprasti akimirksniu | RSS by www.15min.lt.
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