Italian cement maker Buzzi denies sponsoring Russia's war in Ukraine

ROME, March 10 (Reuters) - Italian cement maker Buzzi Unicem (BZU.MI) on Friday rejected what it described as "defamatory" accusations that it sponsors Russia's war against Ukraine via a Russian subsidiary, reiterating it had cut operational ties with it.

The company made the comments in a statement two days after Ukraine's National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (NACP) blacklisted it for doing business in Russia.

In the wake of that announcement, Buzzi's shares tumbled as much as 7% on the Milan Stock Exchange on Thursday, before closing down more than 4.5%. They were up 2% by 1326 GMT on Friday.

"We are aware of a defamatory campaign against Buzzi Unicem which has been launched since the beginning of February, aiming to undermine the company's reputation," the Italian group said in a statement.

Ukrainian authorities and NACP officials were not immediately available for comment.

Buzzi said it had cut all "operational involvement in the activities carried out by the subsidiary SLK Cement in Russia", as it announced last year.

At the time, it said it also suspended "all strategic initiatives and investments" in Russia.

As for SLK Cement, it is a "Russian domiciled entity operating exclusively in that country and therefore subject to domestic legislation," Buzzi said.

"Payment of taxes and having employees being mobilised to the army are not discretionary decisions, rather legal obligations within the Russian jurisdiction," it added.

In a series of tweets, Ukraine's NACP said it had added Buzzi Unicem to its list of "international sponsors of the war" due to the activities of what it called "Buzzi Russia".

"Buzzi Russia cooperates with the Ministry of Defence of Russia and supplies its products to the largest state-controlled enterprises, such as "Rosneft", whose management is under sanctions and "Rosatom", which has been involved in nuclear threats at the Zaporizhzhia NPP," the Ukrainian agency said.

Russia was Buzzi's fourth-largest market last year, after the United States, Italy and Germany, company results showed last month.

Despite a drop in sales volumes, revenue in the Russian market amounted to 290.4 million euros ($308.72 million), up 18.2% year on year at constant exchange rates.

That compared to a global sales figure for the group of just under 4 billion euros.

In Ukraine, where sales last year halved to around 60 million euros, Buzzi said it remains present "despite significant financial losses" due to Russia's invasion.

($1 = 0.9406 euros)

Reporting by Alvise Armellini, editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Kirsten Donovan

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