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Austria's RBI studying possible exit from Russia

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FILE PHOTO: General view of the logo of Raiffeisen Bank International on an office building in Vienna
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FRANKFURT (Reuters) -Austria's Raiffeisen Bank International, one of the European banks most exposed to Russia, said on Thursday that it was studying a possible withdrawal from the country.

The lender has operated in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union 30 years ago and its business there - Russia's No. 10 bank by assets - contributed almost a third to the group's net profit of 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) last year.

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine last month, banks with operations in Russia have been under pressure as investors fear writedowns, business interruption and slower economic growth.

"This unprecedented situation leads RBI to consider its position in Russia. We are therefore assessing all strategic options for the future of Raiffeisenbank Russia, up to and including a carefully managed exit from Raiffeisenbank in Russia," RBI chief executive Johann Strobl said in a statement.

Raiffeisenbank Russia said separately it will continue servicing its clients in Russia irrespective of a potential withdrawal by its Austrian parent. Such a move would be "a measure of last resort", it said.

Reuters reported this month that RBI was looking into leaving the country.

At the time the bank said it "does not have any plans to leave Russia".

The bank's shares are down 31% since the invasion, a move that Russia has called a "special operation". The shares were trading 2.4% higher on Thursday morning.

RBI said that its subsidiaries are self-funded and well-capitalized.

Numerous financial institutions have announced that they are winding down their Russia operations, including Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase .

($1 = 0.9046 euros)

(Reporting by Tom Sims; Editing by Maria Sheahan, Miranda Murray and Edwina Gibbs)

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