Sberbank wants apologies from Ukraine’s top prosecutor

By Andrei Skvarsky.

Sberbank chief executive Herman Gref has asked Ukraine’s chief prosecutor to apologise for “groundless” allegations that Russia’s biggest lender has been financing pro-Russian separatists who are fighting government troops in eastern Ukraine.

“I have written him a letter asking him to apologise,” Gref told Sberbank’s annual general shareholders’ meeting in Moscow on June 6.

“If he doesn’t apologise, we will take measures to restore our reputation,” he said without elaborating.

Ukraine’s acting Prosecutor General Oleh Makhnitsky said in April that he had launched a criminal investigation against Sberbank on suspicion of “financing terrorism” in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. He said the Russian lender was among 14 banks suspected of supplying the rebels with money.

At the shareholders’ meeting, Gref credited his firm with having continued to provide services for the population of Donetsk and Luhanskat a time when practically all other banks had shut down their business in the two battle-torn predominantly Russian-speaking provinces.

He said Sberbank would have liked to keep doing business in Crimea as well but had been unable to after the latter was annexed by Russia in March. The lender had operated in Crimea via its Ukrainian subsidiary, which was forbidden by Ukraine’s central bank to provide any services in the peninsula after its incorporation into Russia.

Gref also said Sberbank’s liquidity resources had been depleted by financial support it had given to Russian companies hit by western sanctions imposed on Russia for annexing Crimea.

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