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Russia's Sberbank To Sell Ukrainian Branches

Ukrainian nationalists brick up a branch of the Russian-owned Sberbank in Kyiv on March 13.
Ukrainian nationalists brick up a branch of the Russian-owned Sberbank in Kyiv on March 13.

The largest Russian bank, Sberbank, is selling its Ukrainian branches amid increasing pressure from the Ukrainian government and protesters in Ukraine.

State-controlled Sberbank said in a March 27 statement that a consortium led by Norvik Bank of Latvia and a private Belarusian firm would purchase the Russian bank's assets in Ukraine.

The sale comes less than two weeks after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree imposing sanctions on Sberbank and four other banks with Russian financing.

The bank's outlets in Ukraine have also been the focus of protests led by Ukrainian nationalists angered after Sberbank said it would comply with Russian President Vladimir Putin's February 18 decree ordering Russian authorities to recognize identity documents issued by Russia-backed separatists who hold parts of Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Sberbank later said that it would not recognize the documents in Ukraine.

Sberbank said the sale of its Ukrainian assets is expected to be completed by July after gaining approval from antitrust regulators.

Said Gutseriyev, head of the Belarusian company involved in the sale and the son of Russian billionaire Mikhail Gutseriyev, will become the largest shareholder in Sberbank's Ukrainian holdings after the transaction.

Sberbank said that it hopes the sale will allow for the "resumption of regular operations" and that its customers will no longer be hindered at its branches in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on March 28 that Russia was very concerned about the treatment of Russian businesses in Ukraine.

"We've been following this and are extremely worried," Peskov told journalists.

He said Russia believes that the Ukrainian authorities should "protect the private property of foreign investors from attacks by ultranationalists and extremists."

With reporting by Reuters, Interfax, and AFP
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