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Russia sanctions: Companies may not face backlash

JPMorgan won't face backlash: Russia Econ Min
JPMorgan won't face backlash: Russia Econ Min

JPMorgan has been criticized for stopping payments from a Russian embassy by the minister of economic development for the Russian Federation – but this will not necessarily mean retaliation against the U.S. bank.

"I do not think that it is a good way of doing business," Alexey Ulyukaev told CNBC of JPMorgan's decision.

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However, the bank will not face "symmetrical" retaliation from Russia, and nor will other U.S. businesses which take part in sanctions, the minister said.

"We will not press the companies about something they were doing by some political pressure," Ulyukaev added.

"I do not think we have to freeze any kind of relationships."

No plans to prevent capital flight: Russian Econ Min
No plans to prevent capital flight: Russian Econ Min

He also ruled out the possibility of imposing controls to stop people pulling their money out of the country. Close to $70 billion was yanked out of Russia in the first quarter, according to the government, which has caused alarm about the country's economic development. Expectations for the country's growth this year have almost universally been downgraded after the Ukraine crisis led to sanctions being imposed against it by the West.

Research by the World bank suggests that there are two possible scenarios that could play out with tensions in Ukraine affecting Russian growth. Birgit Hansl, the lead economist for the Russian Federation at the World Bank told CNBC that if the fallout is only short term then Russia could see growth of 1.1 percent this year. However, a "higher risk scenario" with the continuation of the crisis would mean the country's economy could contract by 1.8 percent this year.

"It is really question now of coming within the government to a consensus on policy choices on how to move ahead on this crisis mode and resolving this geopolitical crisis. And I'm quite convinced that there is a clear vision that there has to be some changes on how businesses perceive Russia as an investment destination" she said.

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Earlier in the week Russia's Foreign Ministry claimed that JPMorgan had blocked a payment from a Russian embassy in Kazakhstan to insurance agency Sogaz. It said that is was "under the pretext of anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the United States".

The foreign ministry criticized the move in a statement as "unacceptable, illegal and absurd" and warned that any actions against a Russian diplomatic mission would affect the work of the U.S. embassy and consulate in Russia.

The bank has since said in a statement it will process the payment "following consultation with our regulators."

The Russian government will "try to explain ourselves" and "say welcome, please invest and please make cooperation deals with our companies," Ulyukaev said. He struck a more conciliatory note than has been heard from other Russian politicians in recent weeks, and pledged not to stop U.S. investment banks working on lucrative Russian initial public offerings.

The country's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, called for a "de-escalation" of rhetoric on Thursday, as he announced Russian troops near the border with Ukraine will be recalled soon.