Alexander Schallenberg defended Raiffeisen Bank over its business in the sanctioned country, Reuters reports © Getty Images/Sylvain Sonnet
Russia will always remain important for Europe, Austria’s foreign minister told Reuters on Wednesday as he defended Raiffeisen Bank’s continued operations in the sanctioned country.
Alexander Schallenberg made his comments after the US sanctions authority launched a probe into the Austrian lender over its business related to Russia last month.
“Let’s get real,” he said. “91% of Western companies are still in Russia and doing what is sensible: waiting, containment, ring fencing.”
Raiffeisen Bank International is Austria’s second-largest lender and, despite sanctions, still plays a critical role in the Russian economy. It’s one of only two foreign banks on the Russian central bank’s list of 13 systemically important credit institutions. The other is UniCredit, a pan-European commercial bank.
“To think that there won’t be Russia anymore and we can decouple in all areas is delusional,” Schallenberg told Reuters, adding that while Austria would loosen ties, this “can’t happen overnight.”
Schallenberg also discouraged Europe from introducing further sanctions against Russia.
“It is a very blunt weapon,” he said. “We’ve had massive sanctions packages. Give them time to work.”
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