The European Central Bank (ECB) and the United States continue to put pressure on one of the largest banks in Austria - Raiffeisen Bank - due to the continuation of its activities in Russia. The European regulator requires the financial organization to speed up the work on leaving the Russian market, or at least significantly curtail banking activities, as well as provide the European authorities with a plan to solve this problem. This was reported by Reuters, citing sources familiar with the negotiations.
After the exodus of foreign companies and the imposition of sanctions against most of the major Russian banks, Raiffeisen became the largest financial institution that retained a “window of international opportunities” for Russians, and Vienna “became a magnet” for Russian money. It is these facts that confuse the American and European authorities, who fear that the bank may be involved in circumventing sanctions, the agency writes. In discussions with the top management of the bank, Western authorities cite the example of the French Societe Generale, which has already left the Russian market, having sold the Rosbank group to Vladimir Potanin.
For Raiffeisen Bank, the Russian market has historically been one of the most profitable. For the Russian financial system, it is also considered systemically important, as is the Italian financial group UniCredit, which is not yet experiencing a similar level of pressure. From Raiffeisen Bank they are waiting for a plan to reduce business in Russia, the final stage of which should be a complete withdrawal from the Russian market.
However, the top management of the bank is not yet going to comply with the requirements of the Western authorities, insisting that such interference is illegal. At the same time, the financial institution has already reduced lending within Russia and is considering various options, including the reduction and even the sale of Russian business. The ECB, on the other hand, listens to the arguments of top management, as it fears that a withdrawal from Russia could provoke problems for the second largest bank in Austria and cause a new round of financial instability after problems with the Swiss Credit Suisse.
In January, US authorities launched an investigation into Raiffeisen Bank over Russian business. Agency sources claim that it was associated with a possible circumvention of sanctions, while the bank itself claimed that it was of a general nature. However, pressure on Raiffeisen Bank aggravated relations between Vienna and Washington. The American authorities are convinced that the bank's too loyal attitude towards its Russian business is turning Vienna into a "magnet for Russian money." The Austrian authorities were also criticized by the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, who noted that, despite Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Austrian business continues its work in Russia.