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Media: Austria backs EU sanctions package after Raiffeisen suspended from war sponsor list

by Martin Fornusek and The Kyiv Independent news desk December 17, 2023 12:02 AM 2 min read
The logo of Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) is pictured above the entrance of the bank's headquarters building on Feb. 1, 2023 in Vienna, Austria. (Photo: Heinz-Peter Bader/Getty Images)
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Austria supported the EU's 12th sanction package against Russia after Ukraine suspended the inclusion of the Raiffeisen Bank in the war sponsors list, Reuters reported on Dec. 16, citing an EU diplomat.

Media reports emerged ahead of the Dec. 14-15 European Council summit that Vienna is delaying the newest package in an effort to remove the Austrian Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) from Kyiv's blacklist.

Even though EU countries publicly announced the 12th package during the summit, EUObserver wrote that Austria continues to hold out on account of the RBI.

The website of Ukraine's National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NAZK) now reads that the inclusion of the RBI in the international sponsors of war list is "suspended for the period of bilateral consultations involving representatives of the European Commission."

"Austria has now lifted its reserve. Sanctions (against Russia) should now be formally adopted this coming week," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist Rikard Jozwiak reported.

Despite the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the RBI, Austria's second-largest bank lender, has continued to operate in Russia.

The bank has long-standing ties with Russia and is only one of only two foreign banks classified as "systemically important" by the Russian central bank.

Czechia opened an investigation of the RBI in August over its ongoing business activities in Russia after the Czech Association for the Rights of Citizens and Entrepreneurs highlighted that Raiffeisen's Russia-based companies had paid up to $720 million from their profits to the Russian state budget in taxes.

The European Central Bank (ECB) urged Raiffeisen on March 24 to devise an exit strategy for selling or shutting down the group's Russia branch of operations.

The bank responded to the criticism by saying that it is reducing its business activity in the country, minimizing "the RBI Group's cross-border exposure to Russia," and exploring ways of selling or spinning off its Russian branch, but no further updates have been provided.

Investigation: Italian company makes sure Russian war machine has the steel it needs
Editor’s note: This story was published by the Dutch investigative outlet Follow The Money on Dec. 14. The Kyiv Independent contributed reporting to this story and is republishing it with permission. Key facts: * After Russia seized Crimea and unleashed the war in the Donbas in 2014, the Italian…
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