Russian aluminum producer Rusal calls for Bucha war crimes investigation

Aluminum producer Rusal became the first Russian company to publicly call for a thorough and impartial investigation into the alleged war crimes in the Ukrainian town of Bucha and call for an early end to the conflict in Ukraine.

“Reports from the Ukrainian city of Bucha shocked us. We believe that this crime should be thoroughly investigated, ”Rusal’s Dutch chair Bernard Zonneveld said in a statement published on the company’s website.

Zonneveld, a former investment banker, called for an objective and impartial investigation and “severe” punishment for the perpetrators “no matter how hard it may seem in the context of ongoing information war”.

A civilian massacre in Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv came to light following Russia’s withdrawal from the Ukrainian capital and its surrounding areas. Kyiv has accused Russia of the killings, supported by witness statements to independent journalists. Moscow has said the massacre was staged by Ukrainian forces.

“Despite the brutality of the current events in Ukraine in themselves, such incidents make this terrible tragedy all the more traumatic. We all wish an early end to this fratricidal conflict, which destroys lives, families and entire cities. And we want those responsible for such crimes to be punished appropriately, ”Zonneveld said.

Zonneveld’s statement came weeks after Rusal’s largest shareholder Oleg Deripaskawho had to give up control of the company after US sanctions against him in 2018, called for peace.

“I am asked not to speak about this, but I very much want there to be peace first of all. Every day there is loss, ”Deripaska said. “The priority is to stop this – I do not want to call it anything – as soon as possible.”

The world’s biggest aluminum producer outside China, Rusal has been one of the businesses hardest hit by the international sanctions against Russia, even though it has not been the subject of any of the current round of restrictions.

One of the biggest aluminum exporters to Europe, it has lost access to raw materials from Australia, which banned exports to Russia, affecting a fifth of Rusal’s alumina needs.

This came through a joint venture with miner Rio Tinto called Queensland Alumina Limited. On Thursday, Rio said it had taken full control of the business.

“Our focus remains on ensuring the continued safe operation of QAL, as a significant employer and contributor to the local Gladstone and Queensland economies,” Rio said in a statement.

Sanctions may also limit Rusal’s access to equipment, which could result in postponing investment projects, the company said last week. It also had to halt its operations in Ukraine.

Rusal followed earlier statements of condemnation of the bloody conflict by Lukoil, Russia’s second-largest oil producer, and Severstal, one of the largest steel producers.

Although these have been cautiously worded so as not to take sides, some people close to the companies said their boards were reprimanded by Moscow.

Rusal, which is listed in Hong Kong, is majority owned by EN +, a Russian metals and energy company founded by Deripaska.

The oligarch relinquished control of EN + in 2019 as part of a deal that saw US sanctions on the company lifted over alleged interference in US politics. The businessman retains a 44.95 per cent stake in EN +, though his voting rights are capped at 35 per cent.

Deripaska, who remains a “specially designated national” by the US, is expected to be added to the EU sanctions list as it seeks to tighten the screw on Russia.

He has been included on the draft list for his ownership of a number of arms companies that the EU claims provided weapons used in the invasion of Ukraine.

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