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UN opened Russian bank account to facilitate climate payments

by Olena Goncharova January 26, 2024 2:41 AM 2 min read
People walk past the United Nations headquarters on Dec. 12, 2023 in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
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The United Nations disclosed that in 2022 it initiated the opening of a Russian bank account due to complications arising from Western sanctions affecting conventional payment channels. The UN has received membership fees from three Russian banks for a climate funding program through the account, Reuters reports.

Sovcombank, identified by the central bank as one of Russia's 13 key credit institutions, announced on Monday that the UN had established an account with an undisclosed Russian bank not subject to sanctions which enabled transactions in Russian roubles.

"There has been a Russian bank account opened by the U.N. Secretariat, consistent with our policy to assist all member states to pay their assessed contributions, failing which they lose their right to vote," a UN spokesperson said, according to Reuters. "Opening the account was necessary, as other normal channels of payment were having challenges arising from the sanctions."

Following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Western nations imposed extensive sanctions on Russia's financial system. In the same year, Sovcombank was added to the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list. Consequently, the bank was excluded from the U.S. financial system and had its U.S. assets frozen.

The bank is currently pursuing a U.S. Treasury license to make payments for its membership fees to the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI). According to a UNEP spokesperson, $114,000 in membership fees has been received from three Russian banks that are part of the UNEP FI.

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