In February 2015, the UK Divisional Court referred questions to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling in the course of Rosneft’s judicial review proceedings challenging UK legislation that gives effect to EU sanctions against Russia. The questions referred concerned the interpretation and validity of Council Decision 2014/512/CFSP and Council Regulation (EU) 833/2014.

In response to the UK Divisional Court’s questions, on 28 March 2017, the ECJ held that the measures on “financial assistance” within Article 4(3)(b) of Regulation 833/2014 do not include the processing of a payment by a bank or other financial institutions. The ECJ clarified that Article 5(2) prohibits the issuance the Global Depositary Receipts in relation to a depositary agreement concluded with one of the entities listed in Annex VI of Regulation 833/2014, where those Global Depositary Receipts represent shares issued by one of those entities before 12 September 2014.

In summary, the ECJ upheld the EU’s sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine conflict, including on its largest oil group, Rosneft. The EU’s sanctions on Russia which are at issue include those imposing restrictions on certain financial transactions and on the access of various Russian entities to EU capital markets, as well as on the export of certain goods and technology and services required for oil transactions. The ECJ held that the vagueness of some of the restrictive measures did not make them invalid for lack of certainty or prevent Member States form imposing criminal penalties for infringement.

The judgment of the ECJ is available online.