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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bankers Slam Report on Chechen Rebel Funding

Bankers have reacted angrily to an article in Izvestia that named some 20 Russian banks, including leading institutions such as Rossiisky Kredit, Tokobank and Rosbiznesbank, as "controlled by Chechen and Ingush groups" and possibly involved in channeling money to fund Chechen rebels.

In a letter to Izvestia editor in chief Igor Golembiovsky, Tokobank president Vyacheslav Khokhlov denied that the bank had any role in financing the rebels and demanded an official denial and excuse from the paper.

In the letter, Khokhlov said that a "top secret" analytical report of unidentified origin, on which the Izvestia report was based, was "probably ... a planned action for discrediting Tokobank."

Editors of Izvestia on Wednesday would neither endorse nor disclaim the story, which ran in the respected daily's Sunday edition.

"We are collecting reactions and will publish our point of view in a few days," said Nikolai Bodnaruk, Izvestia's political editor. According to one source at Izvestia, the paper has received several letters from bankers demanding a disclaimer.

The story, "The Caucasian War's Second Front," said the Chechen diaspora in Russia and abroad plays a main role in financing the rebels. It also said that the Russian banks allegedly involved in such illegal transactions could already have "provoked some ... secret actions by the authorities."

Both bankers and law enforcement officials reacted critically to the report. "According to current information, a number of large banks mentioned in the Izvestia article, such as Tokobank and Rossiisky Kredit, are not among those that we suspect of having links to criminal groups," an unidentified high-ranking official of the Moscow police economic crime unit told Interfax.

"Some of the banks on Izvestia's list do not exist, while others have lost their licenses or changed their names," said Boris Sergeyev, general director of Tokobank's department of economic analysis. "So we think this particular list could be three or four years old."

According to bankers, this is not the first "blacklist" of unclear origin circulating in Moscow. "Earlier you could buy a list of so-called 'unstable banks' for $100 -- if you wanted it on the official paper of the Central Bank, you just had to pay another $20," one banker said.