VIENNA, March 17 (Reuters) - Raiffeisen Bank International’s (RBI) Russian business will not offer services to people with passports of two self-proclaimed republics in rebel-held eastern Ukraine unless legally obliged to do so, the Austrian lender said on Friday.
The chief executive of Raiffeisen’s Russian business, Sergei Monin, had told reporters on Thursday that it was preparing to work with clients from the pro-Russian, self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.
He added that the move followed consultations with Russia’s central bank but might require the consent of parent RBI.
RBI had said it was reviewing the situation. On Friday it went further, saying that it did not want to recognise passports from the breakaway regions, where it does not operate, but it would do so if forced to by law.
“Our group will not voluntarily accept identification documents which are not internationally recognised,” RBI said in a statement. “If, however, a group entity is forced by applicable mandatory national legislation to do so, it will have to comply.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree on Feb. 18 ordering that these passports be accepted as identification.
Some Russian lenders, including Sberbank and Gazprombank, have already said they will accept the documents. Yet lawyers say the requirement can be overlooked until the government adjusts related documents to make it mandatory for everyone in Russia to comply with the decree.
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.
Reporting by Francois Murphy; Additional reporting by Katya Golubkova in Moscow; Editing by David Goodman