KIEV, March 16 - President Petro Poroshenko signed an order Thursday imposing sanctions on Russian-owned banks in Kiev’s latest protest against Russian support for separatists in the east of the country, The Associated Press reported.
The move will stop Ukrainian affiliates of three Russian financial institutions from moving capital abroad, according to a statement on the Ukraine presidency website.
The banks affected by Poroshenko’s order are Russia’s largest bank, state-owned Sberbank, its second largest, state-owned VTB, and Vnesheconombank, the state-owned development bank.
Russia has vowed to defend its banks against sanctions imposed by Ukraine and denounced a blockade of areas held by Moscow-backed separatists, saying the measures would only feed rising tension.
“Of course, we will if necessary use all available and legal methods to defend the interests of our credit and financial institutions,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Poroshenko imposed the sanctions amid reports that passports issued by the separatists were now being accepted as official documents by Russian banks.
Russian-owned banks in Kiev were vandalized this week by activists.
Poroshenko appears in recent days to have been forced into decisions under pressure from nationalist protestors, who have increasingly shaped the country’s political agenda.
He approved the ban on cargo crossing to and from the breakaway regions after militia leaders seized control this month of major coal mines, factories and other businesses still operating under Ukrainian law and paying taxes to Kiev.
Poroshenko reiterated on Thursday that the blockade would last until the enterprises were returned to their legal owners and a ceasefire was established and heavy weapons were withdrawn from the frontline, in accordance with a largely defunct peace deal agreed in Minsk in 2015.
VTB may incur several hundred million dollars of losses because of the restrictions, the bank’s head Andrei Kostin said Thursday in Moscow, the Tass news agency reported.
Sberbank said in a statement that they were “disappointed” with the decision.
Earlier this week, Ukraine imposed a road and rail blockade on rebel-held areas of the country that is likely to cause severe economic disruption to both sides.
Fighting between government forces and Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine has killed more than 9,800 people since April 2014. (ap/ez)