An EU court on Wednesday annulled sanctions on two Russian businessmen, Petr Aven and Mikhail Fridman, after finding that the reasons invoked by Brussels were invalid.

The European Union has imposed successive waves of sanctions on Russian nationals and businesses for profiting or having a role in Moscow's February 2022 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 key 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 both the initial acts and the acts maintaining the lists of restrictive measures" against them, as they were set out by the Council between early 2022 and early 2023.

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

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

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.

"They do not demonstrate that they have supported actions or policies that undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine" or provided material support to Moscow's decision-makers behind the invasion, or benefited from them.

There is a possibility of appealing the decision, regarding points of law only, within two months and 10 days.

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

"The court rightly found that all accusations against Mr Mikhail Fridman and Mr Petr Aven 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. "We hope that today's strong signal will be heard in the EU and outside."

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