Putin banker denies estrangements with US at Davos: ‘Business as usual’

As the U.S. weighs whether to expand its sanctions on Russia, the head of Moscow’s state-controlled bank VTB warned that any additional penalties could be ruinous to the global economy.

“We are part of this political game,” VTB Chairman and CEO Andrey Kostin told FOX Business’ Liz Claman. “And I think the Russian side is not very much responsible for this. The American side decided to go the way of sanctions, which I think is very damaging for the global economy.”

President Trump, who’s currently meeting with global leaders and CEOs at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, is reportedly eschewing contact with Russians amid increasingly icy tensions and impending sanctions. Washington is expected to impose fresh penalties against Russia as early as February for allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Russia vehemently denies any involvement.

Still, Kostin, who’s also in Davos, said that he’s working with officials from U.S. banks, including JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Citigroup (NYSE:C) and Bank of New York Mellon (NYSE:BK). Russia is the primary shareholder of VTB Bank, which is headquartered in Moscow but holds subsidiaries across Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

“They’re all colleagues of mine,” he said. “I’ve known them for a dozen years. It’s business as usual.”

But, Kostin conceded that it could be politically dangerous for Trump to meet with Russians while overseas because of the ongoing speculations that his campaign intentionally colluded with Moscow during the election.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is currently investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 campaign. Kostin, and VBT, are also fighting rumors of funding a potential Trump Tower in Moscow.

“I’m always asked here by colleagues if I deal with [Jared] Kushner or Trump, if I ever gave money to them,” he said. “Never. I never saw anybody from the Trump family. I never gave money to anybody from the Trump family or his assistants.”