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‘History will judge them’: Ukraine foreign minister slams Big Oil’s links to Russia

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks during a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly on the situation between Russia and Ukraine, at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., February 23, 2022.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba launched a scathing attack on firms still doing business with Russia, saying that some major oil companies could find themselves on the wrong side of history.

“The world will judge them accordingly. And history will judge them accordingly,” he told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble in an interview Monday.

A couple oil giants are cutting ties to Russia. Kuleba’s comments came as Shell said that it intends to exit its joint ventures with Russian gas giant Gazprom and its related entities. Energy giant BP announced Sunday that it was offloading its 19.75% stake in Rosneft, a Russian-controlled oil company, potentially hitting the British oil major with a costly $25 billion charge.

Other oil companies are being pressured to follow suit, with Kuleba mentioning France’s TotalEnergies and the U.S. giant ExxonMobil. TotalEnergies has a stake in Russian gas producers Novatek and Yamal, while Exxon has its own links to Rosneft.

When asked directly about these two firms, Kuleba responded: “I can call, urge, them and all other businesses. If they want to save peace, if they want to save lives of civilians, they must stop making business with Russia.”

“Cut off your business with Russia. If you have moral ground, do it immediately without any delay. Trading with Russia is financing aggression, murder of civilians and destruction of peaceful cities” he added.

Spokespersons for TotalEnergies and ExxonMobil were not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

Moscow saw a swathe of new sanctions imposed on it over the weekend for its invasion of Ukraine. The U.S., Europe and Canada agreed to remove key Russian banks from the interbank messaging system, SWIFT. Banks, airlines and wealthy individuals have also been hit, including President Vladimir Putin, but Russia’s energy sector has so far been largely spared.

The Russian ruble tanked to an all-time low Monday and the central bank hiked interest rates to an unprecedented 20%. There have also been reports of Russians queueing outside ATMs, fearing that sanctions could trigger cash shortages.

“The people of Russia are shocked and they already realize how much they suffer from this unjustified aggression triggered by President Putin,” Kuleba said.

He added that it was crucial for the international business community to take a “firm consolidated stance” and not support Russian financial transactions. “Every Russian ruble has a mark of Ukrainian blood in it,” he said.

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