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BRUSSELS, September 14. /TASS/. EU Council on Tuesday admitted the absence of whatever established connections between the Russian corporation Almaz-Antei and the MH17 crash in eastern Ukraine in July 2014, the corporation’s Deputy Director General for legal issues and corporate policies, Vladimir Konovalov, told TASS.
EU Council representatives made the admission at court hearings on the corporation’s lawsuit, wherein it demanded the repeal of sanctions against it as ungrounded and the unfreezing of its European assets. The hearings were held in the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which will pass a ruling on the lawsuit before the yearend.
"There exist the well-known claims the crash of MH17 (on July 17, 2014 - TASS) is linked to the corporation Almaz Antei as the manufacturer of Russian air defense systems," Konovalov said. "But a representative of the EU Council admitted today the links were not established."
"According to what the representative said, it doesn’t matter if Almaz-Antei was involved in the MH17 accident or whether it supplies the armaments used in eastern Ukraine," he said. "What matters is that Almaz-Antei is the largest company that can supply weapons to the Russian Armed Forces."
"The EU representative stated that the sanctions didn’t come across as a punitive measure but meant much rather an assessment of risks and a precaution for the future," Konovalov said.
"It’s plainly obvious this position is political, not legal," he said.
Along with it, Konovalov indicated the court had really tried to clear out the situation around a possibility of Almaz-Antei’s involvement in the tragedy.
"New hearings haven’t been appointed so far but they still can be appointed," he said.
The case papers TASS received in the court suggest that Almaz-Antei cited a range of arguments highlighting the absence of grounds for the EU sanctions, partly because the EU has been unable to provide any immediate proof of supplies of the corporation’s produce to the zone of the armed civil conflict in eastern Ukraine.
In addition, Almaz-Antei charged the EU Council with encroachments on its right to defense in the courtroom, as the European side had not offered any testimonies to the corporation’s alleged role in destabilization in eastern Ukraine.
The EU Council retorted to the argument about the shortage of evidence by citing reports in social networks and publications in the mass media, which said the Buk and Pantsyr air defense systems of various modifications manufactured by the corporation had been spotted in the self-proclaimed unrecognized Donetsk and Lugansk republics.
EU Council blacklisted Almaz-Antei on July 31, 2014, less than two weeks after the MH17 tragedy. All the European financial assets of the individuals and corporations entered in the blacklist were subject to freezing, and Almaz-Antei protested against the motion and filed a lawsuit with the European Court on August 21, 2014.
Apart from inclusion in the blacklist, the corporation also found its interests damaged by the so-called sectoral sanctions against the EU, which took effect as of August 1, 2014. As part of the package, the EU banned the exports of defense and dual-purpose technologies to Russia, which also affects Almaz-Antei’s regular operations.
The corporation challenged the latter prohibition in a separate lawsuit filed with the European Court of Justice on September 1, 2015. Consideration of the lawsuit is in progress but its resolution goes hand-in-glove with another lawsuit challenging the EU sectoral sanctions against Russia that was filed by Rosneft.
EU enacted the sectoral anti-Russian economic sanctions exactly in connection with the MH17 crash. EU foreign ministers admitted the fact openly after they had passed a decision on the sanctions.