Journal De Bruxelles - Sberbank faces protests, cash withdrawals outside of Russia

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Sberbank faces protests, cash withdrawals outside of Russia
Sberbank faces protests, cash withdrawals outside of Russia

Sberbank faces protests, cash withdrawals outside of Russia

From Budapest to Zagreb, Sberbank branches outside of Russia have seen worried customers line up to take out money, while others have become the target of protests after Moscow invaded Ukraine.

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The European Central Bank said on Monday the European subsidiary of Russia's state-owned Sberbank is facing bankruptcy in the wake of sanctions aimed at punishing Moscow.

"I'm just taking my money out quickly," Otto Szucs, a 77-year-old pensioner, told AFP at one Sberbank ATM in Budapest after Hungary's monetary authority ordered the bank to close for two days to avoid bank runs.

In Zagreb, one woman in her 50s tried in vain to withdraw cash from a machine next to Sberbank's main branch office.

"I don't trust anyone anymore," the woman, who did not want to give her name, told AFP.

"It reminds me of the 1990s," she added in a reference to the collapse of banks during the wars that accompanied Yugoslavia's break-up.

Sandra, a 33-year-old housewife whose husband has a business account with some 40,000 euros ($45,000) at Sberbank, told AFP that they were "really very, very scared by the possibility of Sberbank's bankruptcy".

"It's his life savings," she said.

Monetary authorities in affected countries have assured bank customers that provisions on the securing of deposits are in place.

- Pelted with eggs -

Sberbank Europe AG, headquartered in Austria and well-established in eastern Europe, has 800,000 customers and employs 3,900 people, with assets amounting to 13 billion euros ($14.5 billion).

The ECB said Monday that Sberbank Europe has "experienced significant deposit outflows as a result of the reputational impact of geopolitical tensions".

The two largest Russian banks, Sberbank and VTB, were targeted Thursday by tough US sanctions aimed at limiting their ability to conduct business internationally.

The sanctions were stepped up over the weekend with the announcement that selected banks would be expelled from the international SWIFT payment system.

Sberbank Europe AG -- which is 100-percent owned by the bank's Russian parent company -- also has subsidiaries in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Czech Republic and Slovenia.

In the Czech Republic, the bank closed local branches on Friday, citing security reasons.

Employees are "facing physical attacks," said Sberbank spokeswoman Radka Cerna.

In central Prague, someone used a pepper spray inside a Sberbank branch on Friday, while its window later was sprayed with words calling Putin a "killer". Another Prague branch reported a broken window, also on Friday.

Angry clients pelted the windows of a Sberbank branch in the southern city of Ceske Budejovice with eggs on the same day, while in the southeastern city of Zlin, someone smashed a can with red paint against a Sberbank window.

burs-jza/spm

W.Lejeune--JdB