In an interview with CNBC on Tuesday, the economic adviser to Ukrainian President Vladmiri Zelensky, Ole Ustenko announced that Kiev continues to gather data on banks it believes are financing traders of Russian oil, and plans to forward its complaints to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“There is no doubt that Russia is committing war crimes in Ukraine, against Ukrainians,” Ustenko told the outlet. “In our logic, everybody who is financing these war criminals who are doing these terrible things in Ukraine are also committing war crimes,” he added.
Ustenko further said that the Ukrainian government believes the banks are aiding the Kremlin’s war efforts in Ukraine through financing companies that trade oil with Russia.
Asked directly if he wants to see these banks prosecuted for war crimes, Utsenko said: “Exactly.” Ustenko said Zelenskyy believes these banks should be held accountable for prolonging the conflict and the war on Ukraine.
His comments came in response to a FT report last week, which said that Ukraine’s government wrote to the chiefs of U.S. and European banks — such as Jamie Dimon from JPMorgan and Noel Quinn from HSBC — urging them to cut ties with the groups that are trading Russian oil.
In letters seen by the Financial Times, which were sent to the CEOs of JPMorgan, HSBC, Citi and Credit Agricole earlier this month, Ustenko accused these banks of “prolonging” the Ukrainian conflict, and warned them that they would be blocked from participating in the reconstruction of Ukraine.
The economic adviser reportedly stressed, among other things, that HSBC’s and Credit Agricole’s asset management arms still hold shares in Gazprom and Rosneft, while Citigroup allegedly provides credit facilities to another Russian oil and gas giant, Lukoil, as well as to Vitol, a Dutch energy company that trades in Russian oil.
JPMorgan Chase is another global bank that extends credit lines to the Dutch trader, Ustenko reportedly claimed. On top of that, Kiev believes that the lender still holds stakes in Russia’s largest majority state-owned bank, Sberbank, as well as in Gazprom and Rosneft, which were all described in the letter as some of the Kremlin’s most valued economic assets.
Ustenko told FT that Ukraine’s Justice Ministry intends to sue these banks at the ICC, which cannot investigate or prosecute governments or corporations but can target individuals from such organizations.
While not all of the banks have yet responded to Ustenko’s threat, Citi has told the Financial Times it had cut down its business in Russia, while JPMorgan noted to Business Insider that it had helped implement sanctions against Russia.
Ukraine’s government is gathering all the evidence to send it to the International Criminal Court, Ustenko told CNBC.
“We are collecting all these information” in terms of companies that are financing Russia, he said. “Our Ministry of Justice and our security service of Ukraine are collecting. And then later, this is going to be passed to the ICC,” he added.
This isn’t the first time that Ukraine has gone after Western companies for having business dealings with Russia.
In March, the government was highly critical of big oil companies for still doing business with Russia, and warned that some of those firms could find themselves on the wrong side of history.
Nnamdi Maduakor is a Writer, Investor and Entrepreneur