According to top Zelensky aide Oleg Ustenko, who spoke to CNBC, the Ukrainian leader is upset that major banks continue to finance western companies that trade oil with Russia.
“Everybody who is financing these war criminals, who are doing these terrible things in Ukraine, are also committing war crimes in our logic,” said Ustenko on Tuesday. The aide, who serves as Zelensky’s economic advisor, named JP Morgan, HSBC, and Citi as three such banks guilty of apparent “war crimes.”
Asked if the banks should prosecuted for war crimes, Ustenko replied, “Exactly.”
Zelensky, he said, believes the banks should be held accountable for prolonging the conflict in Ukraine, arguing that their continued support of companies that trade oil with Russian companies are effectively financing Russia’s military effort.
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 FT, Ustenko wrote to the bankers asking them to cut off financing for businesses that trade Russian oil and sell shares to Gazprom and Rosneft, two of Russia’s state-backed oil and gas companies.
FT reported that the letters accused Citigroup and Credit Agricole of “prolonging” the conflict by dealing with companies that ship Russian oil. The letters reportedly warned that banks participating in the deals that they would not be allowed to participate in Ukraine’s reconstruction in the future.
According to Ustenko, the government of Ukraine is gathering evidence against the banks to submit to the International Criminal Court, where it intends to press war crime charges.
“We are collecting all these information” of companies alleged to be doing business with the Russian oil industry. “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 said.
In March, Ukraine’s government attacked western oil companies for continuing to do business in Russia, stating that these companies were standing on the “wrong side of history.”