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U.S. Adds Russian-Owned Armenian Bank To Sanctions List


Russia -- Part of a monument to Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin is seen against a sign for VTB Bank in Stavropol, January 22, 2015

Russia -- Part of a monument to Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin is seen against a sign for VTB Bank in Stavropol, January 22, 2015

The United States has added the Armenian subsidiary of a leading Russian commercial bank to a list of companies and businesspeople subjected to U.S. sanctions in retaliation for Russia’s role in the conflict in Ukraine.

Washington first imposed the sanctions last year following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The U.S. Treasury Department said on Tuesday that nearly three dozen more people and companies directly or indirectly controlled by the Kremlin have also been placed on the sanctions list. They include VTB Armenia Bank, one of the largest in the South Caucasus state, as well as subsidiaries of the sanctioned Russian companies in Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Moldova.

The development means that VTB Armenia, which is part of Russia’s state-controlled VTB Group, will no longer be able to attract financing for longer than 30 days from U.S. entities.

VTB Armenia downplayed the significance of the U.S. sanctions on Wednesday, saying that they will have little impact on its operations because it attracts the bulk of its capital from Armenian investors and Russia’s VTB. In a statement, the bank insisted that it will retain a “high degree of capitalization and liquidity.”

In July 2014, the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan urged Armenia to avoid doing business with the Russian companies and individual entrepreneurs included on the initial sanctions list. The Armenian government declined to publicly respond to that warning. The Russian Embassy in Armenia, for its part, deplored the “American attempts to complicate the work of Russian business” in the country.

Russian reaction to the expanded U.S. list was just as negative. A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Moscow is considering retaliatory measures.

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