Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg has said that Russia will always remain important to Europe, and thinks it's delusional for anyone to think otherwise.
He said this in an interview with Reuters.
"To think that Russia will no longer exist and we will be able to separate from it in all spheres is delusional," said Shallenberg.
The minister added that Austria will weaken ties with the Russian Federation, but, according to him, this cannot happen immediately.
"Dostoevsky and Tchaikovsky remain part of European culture, whether we like it or not. It (Russia. - Ed.) will remain our biggest neighbor. It will remain the second largest nuclear power in the world," the minister explained his position.
Shallenberg also came to the defense of Raiffeisen Bank International, the country's second largest bank. He said that it is pointless to focus attention on this bank for doing business in Russia, since many other Western companies also operate on the territory of the Russian Federation.
Schallenberg made his comments after the US sanctions authority launched an investigation into Raiffeisen earlier this year over its Russia-related business.
Raiffeisen is deeply rooted in Russia and is one of two foreign banks on the list of 13 system-forming institutions compiled by the Russian Central Bank.
Schallenberg said that it is Austria that should enforce the sanctions and pointed to other Western banks that do business in Russia.
"Let's be realistic. 91% of Western companies are still in Russia and doing what is reasonable: waiting, holding back. There are enough American banks in Russia, one of them is called Bank of America," Shallenberg said.
We will remind you that Austria has announced that it will join the group of states working on the creation of a Special Tribunal for the crime of aggression against Ukraine.