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Bank of America event cut short over Ukraine criticism

Speakers at an online event for the bank’s clients called Ukraine the losing side in the conflict, and criticized President Zelensky

Bank of America (BofA) cut short an online event earlier in the week and apologized, after clients accused it of promoting “Moscow’s talking points,” according to the Financial Times.

Some attendees were aggrieved by criticisms of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and a description of the economic damage his country has suffered, and raised their complaints, the British newspaper reported on Thursday.

The two-day BofA conference on geopolitics kicked off on Tuesday, but the organizers canceled three sessions discussing US sanctions against Russia and relations between Washington and Moscow, the paper said. A bank strategist phoned clients to offer apologies for what they heard during the first day, sources told the outlet.

Two particular speakers were named as supposedly creating an anti-Ukraine tone at the conference. Daniel Sheehan, BofA Securities’ senior vice-president for international relations, reportedly called President Zelensky “a master manipulator and mimic” and claimed the US government had “serious concerns” about him. A BofA spokesperson told the FT that Sheehan was explaining the views of other people about the Ukrainian leader, and not his own.

Another speaker, whose words some people in the audience found objectionable, was Nicolai Petro, professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island. Petro is a scholar of the Soviet Union and Russia, who recently authored a book titled ‘The Tragedy of Ukraine: What Classical Greek Tragedy Can Teach Us About Conflict Resolution.’

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Petro’s prepared speech, which he shared with FT, described Ukraine as “the overwhelming loser” in the conflict, due to the economic and demographic damage it has sustained.

“If this is what Russia meant by removing Ukraine’s capacity to wage war against Russia, then it will arguably have won,” he said.

The professor also described Kiev’s intention to become an agricultural superpower as “recommended by the EU and the United States” and argued that Washington’s interest was to prolong the hostilities, since it benefited from a “dramatic increase in EU energy and military dependence on the US.”

The newspaper did not identify most critics of the event, except for Timothy Ash of BlueBay Asset Management, who previously expressed his displeasure publicly. In a tweet on Wednesday, he stated that US banks engaged speakers “who so often roll thru Moscow’s talking points.”

An anonymous critic told FT that the conference “was more like Bank of Russia than Bank of America” and “overwhelmingly pro-Russian.” Another one called Petro’s remarks “absolutely shocking [and] straight out of the foreign ministry of Russia”.

April 07, 2023 at 01:31PM

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