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95% of Western companies still in Russia – Austrian Foreign Minister

Sanctions against Moscow should be implemented in full, Alexander Schallenberg has said

The majority of Western companies continue to operate in Russia despite many foreign businesses announcing their exit from the country in response to the conflict between Moscow and Kiev, Austria’s Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg has said.

Austrian firms are “heavily engaged” in both Russia and Ukraine, Schallenberg acknowledged during a joint press-conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Vienna on Friday. Austria is the sixth largest investor in the Ukrainian economy, he stressed.

“And yes, Austrian companies were also present in Russia and are partly still present, as about 95% of all Western companies,” the foreign minister claimed. Schallenberg insisted that international restrictions placed on Moscow over its military operation against Ukraine must “be respected fully… There cannot be any exceptions.” 

He also blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for using gas and grain as “leverage” amid the standoff with the West. Austria will continue to reduce its reliance on gas supplied by Russia, with the goal of becoming “100% independent” by 2027, the minister vowed.

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It’s important for Vienna and Washington to “stand together side by side” in view of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Schallenberg said.

Last week, Politico reported that Washington has been pressuring one of Austria’s largest banks, Raiffeisen Bank International, to withdraw from Russia. According to the outlet, the US Treasury’s Acting Assistant Secretary Anna Morris told Austrian officials and the company’s representatives that the bank risks being shut out of the US financial system if it fails to comply with the demand.

Raiffeisen said that it has reduced its operations in Russia significantly since February 2022, but it remains reluctant to withdraw from the country, as it generated almost half of its profits there last year.

The Financial Times claimed in October that the Russian authorities have banned foreign companies from withdrawing their profits from the country in response to Western sanctions. Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov didn’t confirm the report directly at the time, but said that considering the “quasi-war” being waged by the US and EU against Russia, “a special regime” was in place for Western companies “that leave the country under pressure from their governments.” 

Apple, IKEA, Microsoft, IBM, Shell, McDonald’s, Volkswagen, Porsche, Toyota and H&M were among the first to quit Russia after the outbreak of the fighting between Moscow and Kiev in 2022, but many foreign businesses opted to stay, with some of them switching to Russian ownership or re-branding.

READ MORE: LG, Sony, Bosch leaving Russia – media

In February, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov said about 20% of major European and US companies have left the Russian market, but the rest have kept their businesses in Russia and some are increasing their investments.


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