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Top Russian lender Sberbank ready for anything as sanctions loom


© Reuters.

By Alexander Marrow

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia’s largest lender Sberbank said on Thursday that it was prepared for any developments as the threat of sanctions grew after Russian forces attacked Ukraine, sending shares in Russian banks crashing.

Russian forces invaded Ukraine by land, air and sea on Thursday, confirming the worst fears of the West with the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War Two.

A senior U.S. administration official told reporters on Tuesday that Sberbank and No. 2 lender VTB would face U.S. sanctions if Moscow proceeded with its invasion of Ukraine, warning that no Russian financial institutions were safe.

“We are prepared for any development of the situation and have worked through scenarios for guaranteeing that our customers funds, assets and interests are protected, and also that our functions are fully operational,” Sberbank said on Thursday.

VTB said its branches, ATMs and online services were functioning normally.

Both banks previously declined to comment on potential sanctions.

Moscow-listed shares of both banks underperformed the wider market, which had lost around 33%. Sberbank shares were down 49.4% as of 1132 GMT – its lowest in six years, while VTB shares dropped 41.3%, earlier hitting an all-time low.

Online bank Tinkoff, whose London-listed shares fell 45.2%, said its systems were running smoothly.

“Tinkoff has sufficient liquidity,” the bank, which is not state-owned, but is listed by the central bank as one of 13 systemically important banks in Russia, said.

“We are seeing increased demand for cash withdrawals and are replenishing ATMs on a reinforced schedule.”

The rouble bounced off all-time lows on Thursday as the central bank announced FX interventions after President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian forces to invade Ukraine, a move expected to trigger new harsh sanctions against Moscow.

Top Russian lender Sberbank ready for anything as sanctions loom

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