Bank Rossiya became the first financial institution to be sanctioned by the United States over the Crimea crisis last week. The Treasury targeted the bank as it is the “personal bank for senior officials of the Russian Federation” and its “shareholders include members of Putin’s inner circle.”
Even so, the bank is a strange target. While it is tied to Kremlin officials, it is not a particularly large or powerful institution. It is the 17th biggest lender in Russia. It offers service to 24,000 corporate clients and 470,000 private clients, in a country where the capital city holds 11 million people. Its main asset is the OAO Sogaz Insurance Group, a leading Russian insurance company. The bank is very transparent about their shareholders, as this breakdown is easily available online.
Notable shareholders include Yuri Kovalchuk, who was also sanctioned by the States last week, and Shamalov, who helped to build Putin’s lakeside estate.
Putin’s own association with the bank is murky. An anonymous head of a Russian financial institution said “Everyone knows that it’s Putin’s bank. Therefore it’s a sign, a move in psychological warfare, like they’re telling him: ‘We know everything you’re doing’.”
Yet officially, Putin’s statement on the bank made him sound unfamiliar with it: “As a financial institution, as I understand it, this is such a medium-sized bank. I personally do not have an account there, but I will certainly open one there on Monday.”