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Reuters: Austrian authorities warn Raiffeisen Bank over deal with Russian oligarch Deripaska

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk May 1, 2024 4:34 PM 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. (Heinz-Peter Bader/Getty Images)
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Austrian authorities have warned Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) not to pursue a business deal with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, Reuters reported on May 1, citing Austrian central bank officials.

The Vienna-based bank group, the largest remaining Western bank in Russia, has been under increasing pressure since the start of Russia's all-out war to scale down its activities in the country.

Deripaska, billionaire and former president of the aluminum giant Rusal, was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2018 and by the U.K. in 2022 following Russia's full-scale invasion. Ukraine nationalized Deripaska's business assets in February 2023.

Raiffeisen has been interested in buying a 1.5 billion euro ($1.6 billion) stake in the construction company Strabag, which is linked to Deripaska.

Officials from the central bank have cautioned against the proposed deal, saying that it could violate sanctions and lead to backlash from the U.S.

One source told Reuters that the sale is "embarrassing for Austria, given international criticism of the country for being too friendly towards Russia."

A spokesperson for Raiffeisen said that the "acquisition of Strabag shares remains subject to the compliance review of (Raiffeisen)" and added that the bank "will not buy the shares from Mr. Deripaska nor any other sanctioned person or entity."

Through a spokesperson, Deripaska claimed that he had "nothing to do with Strabag for a long time" and reiterated past complaints about the unfairness of Western sanctions targeting him and his businesses.

The European Parliament sent Austrian officials a letter in April urging them to exert further pressure to make Raiffeisen exit Russia.  

"Let us be clear — activities of Raiffeisen Bank International in Russia contribute to Russia's
economy and budget, and provide financial resources for continued military aggression against Ukraine," the letter said.

The letter followed reports that Raiffeisen expected European regulators to request an acceleration of the bank's withdrawal from Russia. Raiffeisen said it would comply with those requests.

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