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September 28, 2022

Asset finance banks in Russia drafted into Kremlin’s war effort

By Alejandro Gonzalez

Russia's defence ministry says some finance sector exemptions may apply

Western companies in Russia – including several bank asset finance providers – are obliged under law to help conscript their employees, according to NGOs and media reports. 

On 21 September, the Kremlin passed “partial mobilisation” legislation to conscript 300,000 reservists, according to reports. 

International companies have at least 700,000 employees and $141 billion in assets, according to B4Ukraine, a coalition of Ukrainian and international civil society organisations, which is urging multinationals to leave Russia to avoid becoming directly complicit in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

European asset finance banks Raiffeisen Bank (Austria), UniCredit and Intesa Sanpaolo (Italy), Deutsche Bank (Germany), ING (The Netherlands), HSBC (UK) and Crédit Agricole and BNP Paribas (France) are implicated under Russian law. 

The legislation on mobilisation - known as Article 9 of Federal Law No. 31-FZ - mandates all organisations, including international companies, to conduct military registration of the staff if at least one of the employees is liable for military service, B4Ukraine reported 

Companies must also assist with delivering the summons from the military to their employees, ensure the delivery of equipment to assembly points or military units, and provide buildings, communications, land plots, transport and other material means as well as information, B4Ukraine said in a statement. 

The legislation applies to all of the 1,610 companies that are currently operating on a full or limited scale in Russia, B4Ukraine said in a statement. 

On September 23, Russia's defence ministry said some employees working in critically important industries would be excluded from the draft in a bid to "ensure the work of specific high-tech industries, as well as Russia's financial system," Reuters reported. No further details were offered. 

Analysis from the Kyiv School of Economics reveals that 87% of people employed by multinationals in Russia work for companies from 10 countries: the USA, France, Germany, Switzerland, the UK, Japan, Italy, Greece, China, and the Netherlands. 

In particular, US companies employ 251,294 people in Russia, French companies employ 123,642 people, and German companies employ 91,280 people. These companies work in the automotive sector, food and drinks, tobacco, retail, pharma, electronics sector, and many others. 

Tara Van Ho, co-director of the Essex Business & Human Rights Project at the University of Essex, said: “Putin’s actions make the clearest demands on businesses to date: either support the conflict and be complicit in war crimes or leave Russia."

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