By Victoria Craig
BBC reporter

Western governments must “step up sanctions against Russia”, with timing of the essence in Ukraine.

That’s the message from its Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko, who spoke to the BBC from an undisclosed location in the country on Friday.

“I don’t think it’s enough,” he said of current sanctions, adding that this week he had asked G7 leaders for more restrictive ones to be introduced.

“For us it’s not just words, time is very important.”

He also described Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant as a “crucial and very important object within our country”, after some of its buildings were hit by shelling by Russian forces.

Russia attacked and has seized control of Europe’s largest nuclear plant, but international monitors says no radioactive material was released during the attack and the plant is safe.

During the interview, Mr Marchenko also called on investors to ditch Russian assets. He said operators of indexes should remove Russian assets from their benchmarks too.

They play a significant role in markets because “passive” funds with trillions of dollars in assets track the benchmarks they produce, while active managers use them a baseline when building portfolios.

MSCI, an American finance company, said this week it would drop Russia from its widely-followed emerging market indices after determining the country’s stock market had become “uninvestable” due to Western sanctions.

Russia is still, however, a member of JPMorgan’s influential emerging market bond indices.

Financial support from the international community is also a focus for the finance minister who said the European Union agreed a $1.3bn (£983m) deal with Ukraine.

Ukraine has also tapped the bond market for support earlier this week, rallying buyers of so-called war bonds.

Mr Marchenko said the first auction raised $277 million, which will go toward supporting the military in its fight against Russia. A second offering will go on sale next Tuesday.

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