Ukraine: Yulia’s tale: serving clients amid hostage-taking and betrayal

July 7, 2014 loomed as a normal business day for Yulia Vyalova, PrivatBank’s branch network boss in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region. Normal that is, inasmuch as circumstances allowed Vyalova and her charges to do their job, staffing the 155 PrivatBank branches around Luhansk after war had erupted three months earlier across this industrial city of 500,000, just 40 kilometres from the Russian frontier. With neighbouring Donestk, the Moscow-leaning ‘Luhansk People’s Republic’ had wrenched itself from Ukraine in April, exploiting the chaos of Kiev’s pro-Europe ‘Maidan’ revolution, and then Moscow’s seizure of Crimea. The clashes between separatists and the Ukrainian military unnerved Yulia, as did the mines laid around besieged Luhanks that occasionally exploded, sometimes only metres from PrivatBank’s office.

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