In line with federal and international sanctions against Russia, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is showing support for Ukrainians with an executive order directing state agencies and authorities to immediately divest public funds from Russia.
The Feb. 27 order directs all state agencies and authorities to review and divest public funds from Russia following Russia’s “unjustified and unprovoked attack on the sovereign nation of Ukraine.”
New York is home to the largest Ukrainian population in the United States, remains engaged with the Biden administration on sanctions and other punitive actions, and is prepared to support refugees of the crisis and welcome them to the state.
“Russia has chosen to attack democracy and we will stand with Ukraine as we condemn these atrocities,” Hochul said. “Our state will not permit its own investment activity, whether directly or indirectly, to aid Russia as it commits these human rights violations.
“New York is home to the largest population of Ukrainians in the United States. They are our family and an attack on them is an attack on us all,” the governor said.
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is also taking action. He has stopped any new Russian investments for the New York State Common Retirement Fund, which he manages, and is reviewing the fund’s current Russian assets for possible divestment.
The fund is valued at $279.7 billion according to its last quarterly report and is one of the largest of its kind in the United States. It serves as the retirement fund for more than 1 million state and local government employees in New York.
The Comptroller’s Office estimates the fund’s investments in Russia to be $110.8 million, including direct holdings and “co-mingled” funds in Russian companies.
“Russia’s unlawful invasion of Ukraine has led to unprecedented sanctions against Russian companies and individuals,” New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said.
“While American sanctions already prohibit investments in many Russian companies, I believe it is prudent to freeze purchases in all Russian companies due to the situation’s unpredictability and the likelihood that conditions will deteriorate. This will ensure that the fund does not increase its minimal exposure to the Russian economy while completing its divestment review, consistent with my fiduciary duty.”
The deteriorating conditions DiNapoli referred to, along with the 30 percent drop in the value of the Russian Ruble, result from economic sanctions placed on Russia by Western nations and Russia’s partial removal from SWIFT, a secure messaging service that connects banks around the world.
On Wednesday, Hochul attended services at the St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church in Manhattan and addressed the Ukrainian community directly.
“It is profound to witness what the world is watching unfold before our eyes,” Hochul said to the congregation. “So on behalf of 20 million New Yorkers, I am here to say with resolve in my heart, that we stand against this tyranny, and condemn Putin’s unjust and inhumane violation of the sovereignty of Ukraine. And we will stand with Ukraine and its people now, and forevermore.”
Additionally, on March 3, Hochul announced a series of actions meant to bolster the Department of Financial Services’ enforcement of sanctions. The expedited procurement of blockchain analytics technology was highlighted.
The function of the new technology is to detect exposure among DFS-licensed virtual currency businesses to Russian individuals, banks and entities sanctioned. Doing so will limit Russian exposure to New York’s financial institutions.
Superintendent of Financial Services Adrienne Harris said, “We know that bad actors will try to evade sanctions through the transmission of virtual currency, which is why it is imperative that we have the ability to monitor transactions and exposure in real-time.”
The governor has also welcomed the arrival of Ukrainian refugees to New York. According to the United Nations, over 500,000 have crossed the Ukrainian border in recent days, fleeing the current war.
“Our prayers are with the Ukrainian people, including those in New York who are scared for their family and loved ones,” Hochul said. “Just as the Statue of Liberty stands tall in our harbor, New York stands ready to welcome Ukrainian refugees. We remain engaged with the Biden Administration and we will be prepared to accept and support those who seek shelter in our state.”
Hochul ordered that several of New York’s biggest landmarks be illuminated blue and yellow – the Ukrainian flag’s colors – between Feb. 25 and Feb. 27. The One World Trade Center, the Empire State Plaza, and Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge are among the several chosen sites across New York.
“We stand in solidarity with those in New York who are scared for their family and loved ones, and our prayers are with the innocent victims as they fight to maintain their freedom as a sovereign people and nation,” Hochul said.
New York state citizens are showing support, too. The Ukrainian National Federal Credit Union, headquartered in Lower Manhattan, New York City, has opened up an account for donations to support the Ukrainian Armed Forces.