An EU court on Wednesday partially annulled sanctions over the war in Ukraine on two Russian tycoons, Petr Aven and Mikhail Fridman, in a ruling slammed by a key Kremlin foe.

The European Union has imposed successive waves of sanctions on Russian nationals and businesses for profiting from or financially supporting Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

But the Luxembourg-based EU General Court came down in favour of a challenge mounted by Aven and Fridman, major shareholders in Russia's Alfa Bank, by saying the reasons given by the European Council for targeting them "cannot be taken into account".

As a result, the court said in a statement that it "annuls the inclusion of Petr Aven and Mikhail Fridman on the lists of persons subject to restrictive measures between February 2022 and March 2023".

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A spokesperson for the court confirmed that the two businessmen still remain subject to the EU's sanctions as the measures were subsequently extended after those dates.

Challenges from the two against those later updates are pending.

There are currently more than 1,700 individuals and 400 businesses on the EU's Russia sanctions list, among them Alfa Bank.

Aven, who also has Latvian nationality, and Fridman, who also has Israeli citizenship, were put on the EU sanctions list for their connection to the bank.

They both argued that the evidence put forward by the European Council, which represents the 27 EU member countries, was neither reliable nor credible.

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The court agreed that the council's reasons were not "sufficiently substantiated and... therefore not justified".

It said "no additional evidence" was advanced in later council acts that maintained the sanctions on Fridman and Aven.

The council had failed to demonstrate the tycoons had "supported actions or policies that undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine" or that they had provided material support to Moscow's decision-makers behind the invasion, or benefited from them.

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- 'Detrimental' -

Lawyers representing the two men welcomed the ruling as "of the utmost significance".

"The court rightly found that all accusations... were completely baseless," the French-based lawyers Thierry Marembert, Aaron Bass and Roger Gherson said in a statement.

"Sanctioning them was a counterproductive mistake," the lawyers said.

But leading Russian opposition figure Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Alexei Navalny, slammed the decision.

"Neither Fridman nor Aven have spoken out against the war or made any efforts to stop it -- they've simply hired expensive lawyers and influential lobbyists," she wrote on X.

"Lifting sanctions against Fridman and Aven is detrimental. It'll only weaken the anti-war movement and prolong Putin's stay in power."

The decision can be appealed -- although only on points of law -- within two months and 10 days.

The EU sanctions bar individuals' travel to the European Union and forbid EU citizens and companies from having financial dealings with them.

In October, Britain's High Court dismissed a legal challenge by Fridman, who is also under UK sanctions, aimed at allowing him funds to pay for his driver and the upkeep of his London mansion.

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Dozens of Russian oligarchs have been challenging the EU's sanctions in court.

A top EU court last month lifted sanctions against Russian ex-Formula 1 driver Nikita Mazepin, whose career was brought to a halt by Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

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