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Raiffeisenbank Blocks Accounts of Russian Nationals in Czechia

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Raiffeisenbank’s recent account cancellations have affected a diverse group of individuals, including a nurse, an IT entrepreneur, and students, who suspect that their Russian citizenship is the reason behind these actions.

“I found out about it by accident. I was dealing with a completely different issue at the branch, and the banker looked at the reports and said that I had a problem with my loan because the bank decided to cancel my account. I didn’t get any news about it because they sent it to a country where I don’t live,” says Katerina Levchenko.

She has been living in the Czech Republic for three years. As a nurse, she commutes from Rokycany to work in Plzeň.

“I got the bill during the covid, as a thank you to the health workers in the Czech Republic. And in two years it will be cancelled. I have such a bad feeling about it now,” she describes her recent experience.

The Czech branch of the Austrian Raiffeisenbank cancelled Katerina’s account at the end of August, effective from November. She tried to object to this, but the bank replied that according to the current terms and conditions, it did not have to give any reasons for its decision.

“I found out from social networks that I am not alone, I know about twenty or thirty other people, citizens of Russia and Belarus or people with both Czech and Russian citizenship. Half of them received a letter about cancelling their accounts from the same bank at the same time as I did,” Katerina says.

She says she has no explanation for why she lost her bank account.

“I understand that maybe there are enough people who are interested in some cryptocurrencies or do some risky work. But the ones I’ve talked to are mostly responsible and decent people. We did a survey, we thought maybe it had something to do with the length of residence or whether a person is a permanent resident or a long-term resident. We discussed all the possibilities, but we didn’t find any reason,” she said.

Raiffeisenbank confirmed to the editors of Seznam Zprav that it had indeed targeted citizens of Russia and Belarus.

“Raiffeisenbank, as a domestic bank, complies with all Czech and international laws and regulations. Therefore, we have to verify clients from countries that the Czech Financial Analytical Office or the EU currently designate as high-risk very strongly. We send these clients requests to provide the required documents well in advance. If the clients fail to submit the required documents on time despite the bank’s warning, we inform them of the unilateral termination of the relationship with the bank,” described spokesperson Tereza Kaiseršotová.

The editorial board contacted the Czech Banking Association to ask whether there is a blanket control of these accounts or whether Raiffeisenbank’s actions are related to the anti-Russian sanctions.

“We do not comment on the strategy of individual member banks, nor is it our place to express any opinion on their business actions or activities. Thank you for your understanding,” said CBA spokeswoman Markéta Dvořáčková.

“Maybe they want to reduce the number of Russian accounts,” says a businessman.

Evgeny Kubesh, an IT entrepreneur with a Russian passport, has also encountered calls to produce certain documents.

“For more than a year I had two accounts in Raiffeisenbank, one private and one corporate. I have permanent residence in the Czech Republic, everything was in order. But suddenly my company account was cancelled. I had it for business, as a self-employed person. I had no problem with payments and money came only from Austria and Germany, within the European Union. At the beginning of the year, the bank wanted some documents, invoices and so on. So I supplied them and I had no further reaction from them, apparently it was fine,” says Kubesh.

Even to him, the bank did not explain why it was cancelling the account.

“The answer was that the bank can just cancel it. If they don’t want to work with me, why didn’t they cancel my personal account as well?” asks the young ajti.

And he puts forward a possible explanation, although he has no evidence for it.

“I think it’s some kind of plan, they probably have to reduce the number of accounts Russians have with Raiffeisenbank. Maybe it’s related to the sanctions, but I really don’t know,” Kubesh says.

Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International is the largest Western bank operating in Russia, even after Moscow’s military invasion of Ukraine. The European Central Bank is pressuring it to end its highly profitable business in Russia.

Austrian boss Johann Strobl said in early August that the bank would separate its Russian business from its parent firm and set up an independent company with its own legal personality. But the sale of the bank’s Russian subsidiary is also in play.

Although the Russian business contributes significantly to the group’s profits, revenue from Russia remains blocked in the local subsidiary due to anti-Russian sanctions. Critics point out that taxes paid into the Russian budget directly contribute to the war campaign.

The cancellation of bank accounts is a big problem for Russian students in the Czech Republic. In order to obtain a residence permit to study, they have to prove that they have sufficient funds for the entire course of study. And they have to prove it with a bank statement.

“It all started about six months ago. Raiffeisen started writing to me saying they needed some documents. The first of them was a confirmation that the money coming into my account was coming from my parents,” says Igor Minenko.

The third-year student at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics at Charles University would like to make a career as a computer game developer. But now he is wondering whether he will be allowed to continue his studies in the Czech Republic.

“A month later, they wrote to me saying they needed proof that my mother even had the money, some kind of proof of salary. We got that, had it translated. I had a personal assistant from the bank to check the whole thing, it took about six months. I asked him if everything was okay, but he said he didn’t know why they were checking. That he was just making sure the documents were filled out correctly,” Minenko says.

In August, he learned that his account had been closed. When he asked the bank in person what had happened, he found out that the bank had already decided to cancel in July. But the letter was sent to him in Russia, where he does not live. There was no explanation in the letter, only information that the bank was unilaterally withdrawing from the contract and cancelling his bank account.

“I was already in the Czech Republic before the war and there was no problem at all. The bad thing is that I need a residence permit to open an account, but to get one as a student I need an account,” Minenko said.



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