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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ukrainian Steel Mill Dispute Goes to Human Rights Court

BRUSSELS -- Some of Ukraine's most powerful businessmen have turned to Europe's top human rights court in a battle with the new government over the privatization of the country's largest steelworks, a lawyer representing them said Tuesday.

Lawyer Serhiy Vlasenko said he had lodged a complaint at the European Court of Human Rights to challenge a Feb. 17 Kiev court ruling that suspended last year's privatization of the Kryvorizhstal mill.

The case has become one of the most disputed of Ukraine's post-Soviet privatizations, as the pro-Western government of President Viktor Yushchenko seeks to undo deals that put state property in the hands of people close to the previous regime.

The mill was acquired by the Investment Metallurgical Union, a consortium largely owned by former President Leonid Kuchma's son-in-law, Viktor Pinchuk, and tycoon Rynat Akhmetov. Courts approved the mill's sale for around $800 million last year, despite reportedly higher offers from bidders from the United States and Russia.

A group of pro-Yushchenko lawmakers challenged the sale in a Kiev court, which halted the privatization.

Vlasenko said that ruling violated his clients' rights to a fair hearing as guaranteed by European human rights laws.

He said he had lodged a complaint with the court on March 23 and expected a decision within the next five months on whether it will accept the case.