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Austrian lender Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) is planning to leave Russia, becoming the first European lender to do so after Russia launched a military offensive against Ukraine, Reuters reported citing sources.

RBI, which is a key player in central and eastern Europe, is yet to decide on leaving Russia and Ukraine, the sources said adding that it could happen if the operations in these countries need further capital support.  

The Austrian lender has been operating in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union and its business there accounted for nearly a third of its profit of $1.7bn in 2021.

Foreign businesses with Russian operations are struggling to deal with severe sanctions imposed on the nation by the West and its fallout on the Russian market. 

RBI could also pull the plug on Russian and Ukrainian operations by giving up the ownership to another entity, a second source said. 

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The lender can temporarily suspend its Russian operations as well, the second source added. 

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has said that the government would temporarily restrict foreigners looking to sell assets, which further makes it tough for firms looking to quit Russia.

“Raiffeisenbank plans to secure uninterrupted availability of its financial services for the clients based on existing legislation and the regulator’s orders,” the Russian business of RBI was quoted by the publication as saying. 

Notably, RBI and the European arm of VTB are under close observation of the European Central Bank. 

RBI is “well-positioned for all eventualities,” the Austrian finance ministry has said in a statement. 

The ECB has already warned that some European units of Russian lender Sberbank are failing or are likely to fail due to a degrading liquidity position.