Raiffeisen delays quitting Russia as Austria wants to keep ties with Moscow- Reuters

06.07.2023, 13:56
Raiffeisen delays quitting Russia as Austria wants to keep ties with Moscow- Reuters - Photo
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Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) is delaying plans to exit Russia, supported by a number of Austrian officials seeking to maintain long-standing ties with Moscow, Reuters reports.

Although Austria publicly supports Ukraine, several officials who spoke to Reuters said they were reluctant to completely sever decades-old ties with Russia, thinking it will still be possible to restore relations.

The bank and Austrian officials are resisting pressure from the European Central Bank (ECB) to leave Russia, hoping that "the war in Ukraine will end soon", sources told Reuters.

Austrian central bank Governor Robert Holzmann raised concerns over pressure on the bank with ECB president Christine Lagarde, a person with knowledge of those discussions said.

In addition, Austria and RBI are at the centre of a US investigation into Russian ties.

Raiffeisen has handed over data about Russian transactions to the United States' sanctions authority – the treasury department's office of foreign assets control (OFAC), per Reuters. RBI said it complied with sanctions and was cooperating with OFAC.

In mid-June, Austria’s finance minister, Magnus Brunner, spoke with the top US treasury sanctions official, Brian Nelson,and urged the US not to put pressure on RBI.

RBI was planning to sell or spin off its Russian business by September, something which is unlikely to happen, sources told Reuters. RBI is yet to file its exit plan to the ECB supervisors, two sources said, making an exit from Russia by September unlikely.

Furthermore, such a move would need to be signed off by Russia’s central bank and, in the even of a sale, even by the Russian president himself.

"Russian authorities made it clear to RBI, which has around 2,600 corporate customers, 4 million local account holders and 10,000 staff, that they wish it to stay because it enables international payments," Reuters reports.

Raiffeisen Bank International has been included by Ukraine in the list of international war sponsors because its Russian bank continues to operate more than a year into the full-scale war.

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