EU freezes assets of ousted Ukrainian leader and 17 others

BRUSSELS Thu Mar 6, 2014 3:22am EST

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union froze the assets on Thursday of ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich, former prime minister Mykola Azarov and 16 other senior Ukrainian officials suspected of misusing state funds and violating human rights.

In a legal filing published in the European Union's Official Journal, the EU said that "all funds and economic resources belonging to, owned, held or controlled" by the people listed was now frozen within the 28-nation union.

The announcement follows a decision taken last month by EU foreign ministers in response to the collapse of the Ukrainian government and Yanukovich's flight into exile following a crackdown on protesters in Kiev in which scores killed.

Ukraine's new prime minister, Arseny Yatseniuk, has said Yanukovich embezzled as much as $37 billion during three years in office.

In its filing, the EU said Yanukovich's assets were being frozen "in connection with the embezzlement of Ukrainian state funds and their illegal transfer outside Ukraine".

Among the other prominent names on the sanctions list are Viktor Pshonka, Ukraine's former prosecutor general; Oleksandr Yakymenko, the former head of the security service; and Olena Lukash, the former minister of justice. ( r.reuters.com/tuk47v)

The sons of Yanukovich and Azarov were also on the list.

Yatseniuk was due to meet EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the next steps to help Ukraine and its struggling economy get back on its feet.

The EU has pledged around $15 billion in financial assistance to Ukraine, although that is contingent on Kiev agreeing terms with the International Monetary Fund.

(Reporting by Martin Santa, editing by Luke Baker and Kevin Liffey) nL6N0M313M

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