Liam Halligan in Tbilisi -
The head of the EBRD on May 15 rejected accusations from Russia that the international institution has become "politicised".
The EBRD has “stayed close to our clients in Russia and continued to engage with the Russian government,” said EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti said, in response to criticism from the Russian delegation at the EBRD's annual meeting in Tbilisi.
“Last year, as a result of the geopolitical situation, we received guidance from our board not to initiate new projects in Russia,” Chakrabarti told reporters in the Georgian capital. “But we’ve continued to manage our existing portfolio in Russia, our seven offices there remain open, we have many staff in Russia, and our ongoing activities are a good thing.”
Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak, who heads the Russian delegation at the event, had earlier claimed the “politicization” of the EBRD.
“We are surprised and disappointed that the EBRD, being a major and prestigious international financial institution, found itself involved in the sanctions polemics and was used to ramp up political and economic pressure on our country,” he told the EBRD board of governors. "It is essential the EBRD remains a depoliticized transition institution ... and we hope that the bank will not be guided by temporary political trends," Storchak said.
In July 2014, the EBRD halted fresh lending to Russia, which has long been its biggest market, after the West imposed economic sanctions over Moscow's actions in Ukraine.
While defending the decision to stop new Russian projects, but maintain existing ones, Chakrabarti said he didn’t envisage new activities in Russia before 2016 at the earliest. “I don’t expect any new Russian projects this year, and I don’t think Storchak does either,” he said. “But the EBRD stands ready to begin new Russian lending when our shareholders ask us to do so.”
The EBRD president denied Storchak’s claim that its €568m loss during 2014 was related to its decisions regarding Russia. “Our results were affected by Russia last year, but that was nothing to do with our not investing in new projects,” he said. “The loss had a lot more to do with movements in the ruble and the broader Russian economy, and that’s why - since the ruble has recovered - our results have been very strong during the first four months of this year.”
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