Austrian bank helps Russia provide passports to Donetsk, Lugansk inhabitants

The logo of Raiffeisen Bank International is seen at a branch office in Vienna. [Reuters]

The Russian arm of Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International is preparing to offer services to people holding passports from two self-proclaimed republics in rebel-held eastern Ukraine, the head of the bank said yesterday (16 March).

Sergei Monin told reporters the move followed consultations with Russia’s central bank but might require the consent of the parent bank.

“We posed some questions to our regulator, but in principle we are preparing to work” with clients in the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic, Monin said.

“We are in the process of verifying the regulatory situation,” a spokeswoman for Raiffeisen Bank International said. “We act in accordance with international standards on customer identification and in the framework of the applicable local regulations and laws.”

More than 10,000 people have been killed in the past three years in the conflict between the Ukrainian government and the breakaway pro-Russian regions. Moscow recognised passports issued by Donetsk and Lugansk in February.

In an escalation of tensions, the Ukrainian government said on Wednesday it was halting all cargo shipments from rebel-held areas, and the central bank said it would impose sanctions on the Ukrainian subsidiaries of Russian state-owned banks.

On 18 February, Putin ordered  the Russian government to recognise identity documents, diplomas, birth and marriage certificates and vehicle registration plates issued in the separatist-held regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in east Ukraine.

The dicision drew criticism from France, Germany and the European Union.

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In a resolution passed yesterday, the European Parliament strongly condemned the decision of the Russian authorities to give all inhabitants of Crimea Russian passports.

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