Ukrainian companies have called on western banks to continue to support them during the ongoing political crisis and slammed the “aggressive” and “illegal” actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Igor Golovakin, the group treasurer of Ukrainian steel producer Metinvest, launched into an impassioned and scathing assessment of the recent events in Crimea at the Structured Commodity Finance conference in London, and pleaded with European and US banks not to abandon Ukrainian businesses.

Golovakin said that while everybody in Ukraine is surprised by the pace with which the crisis has escalated, other regions within Russia’s sphere of influence should take note and be wary. He said: “I can only come to one conclusion. Putin is the aggressor. Chechnya, Abkhazia, Ukraine… Where is next? Poland, Hungary, Czech?”

His comments were backed by Alexander Lyubarev, the CFO of Donetsksteel, who said: “Most Ukrainians want to live with Russia, and the EU, but not people like Putin. Ukrainian companies and banks need support in the short-term, finance for liquidity. I ask everyone to support us, do not stall. By not giving something to Ukraine you give us no chance of becoming an independent country. Everyone supports democratic change but will that translate to financial support?”

Both Golovakin and Lyubarev expected that there would be little immediate impact on their own business, but that the longer the action continues, the bigger the threat it holds for Ukrainian trade and exports.

Currently only a small amount of Metinvest’s exports travels through Crimea and the company is confident that if need be, it is able to reroute that trade through Odessa and other sea ports. The result would be a small increase in cost, which would be reflected in the price of the product.

Metinvest has US$500mn in cash reserves, with no immediate repayments on the horizon. However, the company is obliged to repay a US$500mn eurobond in May 2015. Golovakin said that he hopes markets would return to normal within a matter of months.

Meanwhile, international banks have reaffirmed their commitment to operating in the country. Senior staff from Deutsche Bank, ING, Citi and Raiffeisen all said that they were not ready to retreat from Ukraine, but admitted that the situation is concerning.

Kris van Broekhoven, global head of commodity trade finance at Citi, said: “This is a real political crisis and everyone is wondering who will move first,” adding that the bank has no plan to leave Ukraine or change its modus operandi.

The EU and US have already imposed sanctions on Russia, focusing on visa bans for a number of Russia citizens. The US has vowed to extend the sanctions to include asset seizures and bans to doing business in the US, should the situation deteriorate.

For multinational banks operating in Russia, the threat of sanctions are high on their list of worries. French President Francois Hollande threatened to seize the assets of Russian individuals connected to the regime, which speakers at this conference suggested may place Putin under pressure from high-powered Russians.

But Bernard Zonneveld, global head of structured metals and energy finance at ING, warned that if Hollande blocks accounts of Russian citizens in Paris, then what is to stop Putin blocking or seizing the assets of French banks in Moscow?

Earlier in the week, the EBRD pledged €5bn in support for Ukraine, made payable if the country enters into an IMF programme and tackles corruption. The package will increase to €11bn up to 2020.