The recently formed National Corps Party says it will attack the Ukrainian subsidiaries of Russian banks until they persuade Ukrainians to stop doing business with them.
Eight Russian banks do business in Ukraine. They are: Sberbank, VTB, Alfa Bank, Neos, BM Bank, Prominvestbank, VS Bank and Forward Bank. National Bank of Ukraine Governor Valeria Gontareva said the market share of banks with Russian capital in Ukraine amounts to only 8.8 percent.
Starting Jan. 30, activists picketed six offices of Russian banks, including five central branches in Kyiv and one in Lviv.
VTB Bank on Pushkinska Street was among their latest targets on Feb. 3.
A sign reading “welcome to Russia” was chained to the entrance, which was doused in red paint and plastered with posters warning Ukrainians to withdraw deposits from the bank of the “aggressor.” Graffiti was sprayed on a nearby sign: “Bank of a murderer.”
The National Corps Party was formed last year by members of the Azov Civil Corps non-governmental organization with veterans of the Azov regiment.
Head of the National Corps’ Kyiv branch Sergiy Filimonov said the activists will keep putting pressure on Russian banks until they see results.
“We want to disrupt the client base, so people see the paradox. We’re demanding the world’s sanctions against Russia, but we can’t hold them up here in Ukraine in time of war,” he said.
“Not only are we not keeping up sanctions against Russia, the head of the National Bank of Ukraine is allowing them to develop.”
The move comes amid Russia’s escalation of its three-year war against Ukraine and speculation that U.S. President Donald J. Trump will ease sanctions against the Kremlin.
Filimonov, who fought in the Donbas until he was wounded, said the protests were not timed in response to recent political developments.
He said that he wants Ukrainian customers of Russian banks to know that they are supporting the Kremlin aggressors responsible for the deaths of 10,000 people since the war started.
Filimonov said they are going to continue picketing banks and are planning further actions against the central bank and others responsible for keeping the subsidiaries of Russian banks open.
“We’re fighting against Russia’s ability to make money off us and we will continue fighting,” Filimonov said. “Unfortunately, it’s inconvenient for the President (Petro Poroshenko) to fight against Russian businesses because he has his own business in Russia. So the people will fight it.”
An employee of VTB Bank on Pushkinska Street, who refused to be named and was pulling down posters urging depositors to withdraw their money from the bank, said the bank now had no relationship to Russia.
A Sberbank spokesperson declined to comment on the protest and the bank’s ties with Russia but said the business closed affected branches for the duration of the protest for the safety of clients and staff.
Ukrainian news site Hyser reported on Feb. 3 that Gontareva, in an earlier interview, said banks with Russian capital would not have a bright future in Ukraine.