NEW YORK, Jan. 31 – Dozens of Ukrainian activists rallied in front of Deutsche Bank offices in New York on Friday demanding the German bank to stop handling money for corrupt allies of President Viktor Yanukovych.
The rally comes as part of a global campaign by Ukrainians living overseas and by Ukrainian non-profit organizations seeking to put pressure on Yanukovych’s financial backers.
The moves are seen as weakening Yanukovych as his government has resorted to a violent crackdown on protesters in Kiev earlier this month. At least five protesters were killed during the clashes with police.
Deutsche Bank is believed to be one of the banks used by the All-Ukrainian Bank of Development, a bank owned by Oleksandr Yanukovych, son of the president. Oleksandr, trained as a dentist, has amassed a fortune of more than $550 million since his father has become the president in February 2010.
"We are telling Deutsche Bank to not serve criminals in power, who kill, kidnap and terrorize people in Ukraine," Olya Yarychkivska, the organizer of the protest, said. "Our message is: Stop helping the Yanukovych regime, do not launder their bloody money, save your reputation."
The activists demanded Deutsche Bank to refrain from conducting transactions linked to Yanukovych and his bank, in accordance with international anti-money laundering standards of the Financial Action Task Force and the USA PATRIOT Act.
Most of the Ukrainian officials and businessmen loyal to Yanukovych keep their financial assets in foreign countries, including in the U.S. and the European Union.
Mykola Azarov, who resigned as the Ukrainian prime minister earlier in January, was reported to have immediately left for Vienna, Austria. Azarov’s son reportedly has a permanent residence in Austria as well as a number of business assets, according to media reports.
Assets of Azarov and other government officials in Austria and across the EU will be targeted by pickets later this month.
The U.S. Department of State has condemned the violence in Ukraine and has revoked the visas for those Ukrainian officials and individuals that have been linked with ordering the crackdown.
The U.S. Senate passed Resolution 319 stipulating that "the President and Congress should consider whether to apply targeted sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, against individuals responsible for ordering or carrying out the violence."
President Obama affirmed support for the people of Ukraine in his State of the Union address on January 28: "In Ukraine, we stand for the principle that all people have the right to express themselves freely and peacefully, and have a say in their country’s future." (tl/ez)