Italian bank’s Kiev offices raided over ‘terror’ suspicions

Ukraine security agents seize UniCredit’s documents to detect financial supporters of pro-Russian rebels

Photo by:
Photo by:

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Ukrainian security officials have seized the documents of the Italian-owned UniCredit Bank in the capital city Kiev as part of an investigation which is being carried out to prevent the financing of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

A district court in Kiev gave permission to the State Security Service (SBU) to seize the documents of five companies over suspicions that they may be supporting separatist organisations in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian SBU spokeswoman Olena Hiltyanska said that the Ukrainian government did not have any problems with the bank itself and that the SBU only suspected that UniCredit held accounts for 10 organisations involved in financing “terrorism.”

She stressed that Ukraine seized the bank’s documents "in order to halt possible operations aimed at financing terrorist organisations."

The deputy chairman of UniCredit’s Ukrainian branch Tamara Savoschenko said that "the bank has provided all the requested information, cooperating with the investigation to the utmost."

"However, SBU agents decided to block our branches' operations by restricting the movement of its personnel, and through other measures," she added.

"We do not want to be dragged into political games in Ukraine, which -- considering the nature of the information requested -- today's events were."

Although Russia rejects accusations that it is financially and militarily supporting the rebellion in eastern Ukraine, the United States and EU countries have frozen the accounts of Russian officials suspected of involvement since 2014.

Documents from UniCredit’s Donetsk offices were also seized as part of an investigation on illegally-acquired properties in September 2013.

Between 2013 and 2014, UniCredit closed 39 different branches in eastern Ukraine in regions controlled by separatists. In 2014, the Italian bank tried to sell its branch in Ukraine due to a lack of profit.

Clashes between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian troops have claimed more than 6,200 lives and caused more than 1 million people to flee their homes since the war started last year.

Russia and Ukraine have been at loggerheads ever since months of pro-EU demonstrations in Kiev forced former pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych to flee the country in February 2014.

The political crisis led the autonomous government in Crimea, which is dominated by ethnic Russians, to declare independence from Ukraine and eventually be annexed by Russia following a referendum a month later.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine caused its relations with the United States and the European Union to reach their worst since the end of the Cold War era.

TRTWorld and agencies