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US threatens EU bank for working in Russia – Reuters

Austria’s Raiffeisen bank could be cut off from the American financial system, Washington has reportedly warned

The US Treasury has threatened to curb the access of Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) to the American financial system because of its continued activity in Russia, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

The Austrian lender is one of the few foreign banks to have stayed in Russia amid sanctions imposed by Western countries since the start of the Ukraine conflict in 2022. The lender enables euro and dollar payments to and from the country. It is listed by Russia’s central bank as one of 13 systemically important credit institutions.

In a letter dated May 6, US Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo expressed concern about RBI’s alleged expansion in Russia, contrary to the bank’s assurances that it would reduce its activities in the country, Reuters said citing a source who has seen the correspondence.

Adeyemo, the Treasury’s second-highest ranking official, reportedly warned that RBI’s actions increase the risk of losing access to the US financial system given concerns that the lender’s behavior puts US national security at risk. Curbing access to the US dollar could plunge any bank into crisis, the outlet noted.

The official reportedly emphasized the executive order issued by US President Joe Biden in December that imposes secondary sanctions on foreign financial institutions that conduct transactions with the Russian military industry.

Adeyemo also is said to have raised concerns about a deal with sanctioned Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska.

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Top EU bank sets timescale for promised Russia exit

In December, RBI announced that it had agreed to buy a stake in Austrian construction company Strabag SE from its Russian shareholders. The banking group had reportedly hoped to exchange €1.5 billion ($1.62 billion) of the bank’s trapped profits in Russia for a stake in Strabag, formerly controlled by Deripaska.

Following mounting pressure from US authorities, RBI announced on May 8 it would no longer pursue the planned acquisition of Strabag shares, as it was unable to obtain the “required comfort” from authorities to proceed.

An RBI spokesperson said the group had “significantly reduced” activities in Russia and taken broad measures to mitigate the risks from sanctions.

“RBI will continue to work towards the de-consolidation of its Russian subsidiary,” the spokesperson told Reuters.

The bank’s spokesperson told RIA Novosti on Wednesday that it sees no threat of being cut off from the US financial system, adding that it continues “dialogue” with the US Treasury regarding its Russian operations.

RBI has been gradually reducing its operations in Russia over the past two years under pressure from EU and US regulators. Earlier this month, RBI announced it would start its withdrawal from the country in the third quarter of this year.

May 15, 2024 at 05:57PM

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