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15 February 2022

Whose banks are most at risk if Russia invades Ukraine?

Italian and French banks are owed $25bn by Russia.

By Katharine Swindells

Italy, France, Austria and the US are among the countries most financially exposed if Russia invades Ukraine, all with over $10bn in outstanding claims on Russia.

Figures from the Bank of International Settlements show that, as of the third quarter of 2021, Italian and French banks were the most exposed, both with over $25bn in outstanding debts.

Reuters reported last week that a number of European banks are withdrawing from Russian deals, and those with subsidiaries in Russia are preparing for possible sanctions.

International lenders have significantly decreased their exposure to Russia since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. The US currently has outstanding claims of just under $15bn, less than half the figure in 2013, when it was the country’s second-largest lender.

The industry’s biggest fear is that Russia is banned from Swift, the system for international financial transfers, as Iran was a decade ago, which would be catastrophic for the repayment of international debts.

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