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WASHINGTON – Just as Russia is broadening its influence in Europe by buying up more oil and gas sites whose owners are eager to bring in much needed cash, now Moscow is bringing Russian state-controlled banks to Europe, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

According to informed sources, Sberbank, said to be a virtual arm of the Kremlin, is moving financial assets into Central and Eastern Europe.

This is coming at a time when Western European banks, which descended upon the area following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, are pulling out because of the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis and the urgent need to recapitalize reserves.

Sources say it is a clear indication that the Moscow seeks to extend its influence into the region as Vladimir Putin prepares to regain the presidency on May 7. According to sources, Sberbank will invest some $400 million in its Austrian subsidiary, the Volksbank International, or VBI, this year.

Sberbank now completely owns the Austrian VBI subsidiary, after spending more than 505 million Euros for it earlier this year. Now, sources say, VBI’s subsidiary banks are among the top 10 financial institutions in terms of assets in Eastern Europe, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Croatia, as well as in Hungary, Serbia and Slovenia.

Now that Moscow has more cash due to increased oil and natural gas prices, it will seek to get more involved in Europe’s energy and financial infrastructure during this time of economic crisis.

In addition to energy and financial institutions, sources see the Kremlin eager to put investments into Europe’s airports and seaports, which are being sold at low prices these days. Such financial control over vital infrastructure facilities in Europe will allow the Kremlin to exert increased political and economic leverage over Europe at this critical time of serious economic recession.

In the past, Moscow has been known to use political leverage by turning off the flow of oil and gas, interrupting a supply Europe depends on to obtain some 40 percent of its energy.

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