Fri Jan 23, 2015 3:35PM
VTB CEO Andrei Kostin
VTB CEO Andrei Kostin

Further financial sanctions by the United States against Russia would lead Moscow and Washington to the “brink of war,” the head of a leading Russian bank has warned.

Ties between the US and Russia will be severed if Russian banks were excluded from the Swift banking system due to tougher sanctions, said Andrei Kostin, the chairman of Russian state-controlled VTB Bank.

“Ambassadors can leave capitals. It means Russia and America might have no relationship after that,” Kostin said at the World Economic Forum on Friday.

“If there is no banking relationship, it means the countries are on the verge of war, or definitely in the cold war,” he added. “It will be a very dangerous situation.”

As one of Russia’s most senior bankers, Kostin meets regularly with President Vladimir Putin and other top officials.

The US and the European Union have already imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia, including visa bans and asset freezes.

Ties between Washington and Moscow deteriorated last year over the crisis in Ukraine after pro-Western forces ousted the country’s president Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.

The US and its allies accuse Moscow of sending troops into eastern Ukraine in support of the pro-Russian forces. Moscow has long denied any involvement in Ukraine's conflict.

The Kremlin has described Washington’s foreign policy on Ukraine as “aggressive”, saying the policy “fails to meet present-day realities and demonstrates that the United States actually wants to dominate the world.”

At his State of the Union address on Tuesday, US President Barack Obama said increased US support for Ukraine was a principled stand against Russia's "aggression."

The president said the United States and its allies were united against Moscow, a policy he said has left Russia isolated diplomatically and weakened economically.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov lashed out Wednesday at Obama's speech, saying the comments showed the US had adopted a policy of confrontation towards Russia.

AHT/HRJ