Russian bank Sberbank to open branches in annexed Crimea

(Reuters) – Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, said on Wednesday it would open branches in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.

Sberbank has already installed its first ATMs in Crimea and will open offices in the first half of 2023, the Russian state-owned bank said in a statement.

The biggest Russian companies had previously refused to establish their activities in Crimea for fear of being hit by Western sanctions. Last year, Western countries sanctioned Sberbank in response to Moscow sending tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine.

“Sberbank has formed a team and is starting to work on the Crimean Peninsula,” the bank said.

“Gradually, throughout 2023, the bank will open branches. The first of them – in the largest cities – will start operating in the first half of the year,” she said.

Sberbank is one of many major Russian banks to be blocked from the SWIFT international payment system and some of its top executives have been directly affected by the sanctions.

These restrictions have forced the bank to close some international operations, including in its European markets. Sberbank, on the other hand, plans to open an office in China within the next two years, it said in December.

Sberbank posted an annual net profit of 300.2 billion rubles (4.02 billion euros) on Tuesday, a drop of 75.7% linked to the impact of Western sanctions.

(Reporting Reuters offices; French version Dagmarah Mackos, editing by Kate Entringer)

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