Credit Agricole closes Crimea operations-employee

PARIS, April 18 Fri Apr 18, 2014 1:03pm EDT

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PARIS, April 18 (Reuters) - French bank Credit Agricole , has closed its central branch in Crimea, the last one in the Black Sea peninsula that was still operating, a local call centre employee told Reuters as foreign banks withdraw from the Black Sea peninsula following Russia's annexation.

The bank's web site list of branches and ATMs in Ukraine was not showing any in Crimea on Friday. Russian media also cited call-centre employees saying Credit Agricole had closed all of its 5 branches in the region.

Credit Agricole's press office in Paris declined to comment. Its Ukrainian subsidiary could not be reached for a comment.

Russia's annexation of Crimea is not recognised by Ukraine, and foreign banks have said it is impossible to continue operations in the region for legal reasons.

The employee at Credit Agricole's Ukrainian subsidiary said that the central office in Simferopol was closed, and that Crimean clients had been given notice that they could no longer perform banking transactions after April 17.

She added that Credit Agricole was trying to cooperate with other banks that continue business in Crimea so that its clients could service debt without commission.

Credit Agricole previously told Reuters that its Ukrainian branch is overall worth 150 million euros of its 1.5 trillion euro balance sheet. Loans outstanding amounted to 1 billion euros, mostly in agriculture.

This week, BNP Paribas' subsidiary UkrSibbank closed down 18 branches in Crimea, but kept one branch in each of the cities where the majority of Crimean clients live - Simferopol, Sevastopol, Kerch, Yalta and Yevpatoriya.

It said that some of its employees would be transferred to other branches in the peninsula or would be offered jobs in other regions of Ukraine.

Raiffeisen Bank Aval, in which Austrian Raiffeisen Bank International holds 96.41 percent of shares, said on April 5 it would close the remaining six of its 32 Crimea branches by April 15.

UniCredit, Italy's biggest lender by assets, said on Tuesday it was suspending its operations and shutting all its branches in Crimea.

(Reporting by Maya Nikolaeva; Editing by Andrew Callus)

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