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Ukrainian state bank CEO resigns after assaulting journalists

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By Euronews with AFP
The offices of the Ukrainian state bank Ukreximbank are pictured in Kyiv.
The offices of the Ukrainian state bank Ukreximbank are pictured in Kyiv.   -   Copyright  SERGEI SUPINSKY / AFP
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The head of a major Ukrainian state-owned bank has resigned after a scuffle with journalists.

Yevgen Metsger was filmed assaulting reporters during an interview at his Ukreximbank office on Monday.

Video of the incident has been viewed more than 430,000 times on YouTube and has prompted an outcry in Ukraine.

"At an emergency extraordinary meeting, the Supervisory Board of Ukreximbank decided to suspend the chairman," the bank said in a statement.

Ukreximbank -- Ukraine's third-largest bank -- also apologised for Metsger's "deplorable behaviour" and said that an internal investigation was underway.

Metsger has also released a statement apologising for his "unacceptable" actions and confirming his resignation.

"My overly emotional reaction and unrestrained behaviour towards journalists have no justification. I am fully aware of my responsibility."

"I have always considered and still consider freedom of speech and a free press to be the foundation of democracy and true state independence."

SERGEI SUPINSKY / AFP
Ukrainian journalists hold placards during their protest action outside the bank on Wednesday.SERGEI SUPINSKY / AFP

The assault took place during the CEO's interview with investigative journalists from the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (REFRL).

Metsger cut the interview short after a question about a loan granted by Ukreximbank to companies reportedly linked to pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

The CEO could be seen ordering journalists to "turn off" the camera and "erase" the footage.

According to RFERL, bank employees assaulted their cameraman and took his equipment by force.

Ukreximbank initially denied the allegations and accused the journalists of provoking the incident, but they later retracted their statement when the video emerged.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has condemned the "unacceptable" behaviour of the bank officials, while the country's US and British embassies have also expressed concern.

"Freedom of speech is one of the fundamental values ​​in Ukraine," said Mykhailo Podoliak, adviser to the head of the President's Office.

"It is the duty of officials at all levels to communicate correctly with journalists and to respect their right to ask any questions of public importance."

Ukrainian police have opened an investigation for "obstructing the professional activities of journalists".