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Ukrainian Bank Chief Dismissed After Assault On RFE/RL Journalists


A court ordered Yevhen Metsher (left) and the head of Ukreksimbank's press service, Volodymyr Pikalov (right), to remain under house arrest between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. every night.

Ukraine's state-owned export-import bank has dismissed its chairman after a court ordered him to be put under nighttime house arrest while the authorities probe a confrontation with RFE/RL investigative reporters last week.

During an interview on October 4 at Ukreksimbank's Kyiv offices, CEO Yevhen Metsher and his spokesman ordered a security guard to seize the cameras and memory cards of two reporters of Schemes (Skhemy) -- an investigative news project run by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service in cooperation with UA: Pershy television.

Amid condemnation from top government officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's office, Metsher and the two other bank employees were criminally charged in connection with the confrontation.

On October 11, a Kyiv court ordered Metsher and the head of Ukreksimbank's press service, Volodymyr Pikalov, to remain under house arrest between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. every night.

The bank's supervisory board later issued a statement saying Metsher had formally initiated the "termination of fixed-term employment contract on his own initiative" and was subsequently dismissed.

Ukreksimbank's supervisory board previously apologized to the journalists and suspended Metsher after RFE/RL aired footage and audio of the incident.

Caught On Video: Ukrainian Banker Tries To Delete Recording After Assault On RFE/RL Journalists
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Metsher has apologized for what he described as an "overly emotional reaction and unrestrained behavior toward journalists."

During the October 4 interview, Schemes sought commentary from Metsher about its investigation into a loan made by the bank.

Metsher became defensive, and he and his spokesman ordered a security guard to seize the cameras and memory cards of two Schemes reporters.

The journalists were allowed to leave the office after the interview was apparently deleted from their memory cards. But Schemes' technicians managed to retrieve video showing the entire confrontation.

According to the findings of the Schemes investigation, Ukreksimbank lent $60 million to companies owned by a businessman with interests in parts of eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.

The businessman has also paid millions of Ukrainian hryvnyas in taxes to the separatists and put up as collateral for the loan a Kyiv shopping mall whose ownership is under dispute.

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