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A Deutsche Bank logo in Frankfurt, Germany, on June 9, 2015.Ralph Orlowski/Reuters

Deutsche Bank AG faced stinging criticism from some investors and politicians on Friday for its continuing ties to Russia after saying that leaving would go against its values, as other banks cut off links with the country.

Germany’s largest bank has dug in its heels amid pressure to sever ties after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, arguing that it needs to support multinationals doing business in Russia.

Goldman Sachs GS-N and JPMorgan Chase JPM-N said on Thursday they were unwinding their Russian businesses, becoming the first major U.S. banks to exit after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and putting pressure on rivals to follow.

“We are often asked why we are not withdrawing completely from Russia. The answer is that this would go against our values,” chief executive Christian Sewing said in a note to Deutsche Bank staff on Thursday. “We have clients who cannot exit Russia overnight.”

Bill Browder, an investor who has spent years campaigning to expose corruption in Russia, said that Deutsche Bank staying “is completely at odds with the international business community and will create backlash, lost reputation and business in the West.”

“I would be surprised if they are able to maintain this position as the situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate,” Mr. Browder told Reuters.

Fabio De Masi, a former member of the Bundestag and a prominent campaigner against financial crime, said that Deutsche Bank had close ties to the Russian elite, many of whom faced sanctions and that the relationship, where it involved criminal Russian activity, had to end.

Asked about the criticism of its decision to stay, Deutsche Bank repeated a statement it would comply with sanctions and that it was “monitoring the situation closely,” adding that it may adapt its approach “as appropriate.”

Tim Ash, senior emerging-markets sovereign strategist at BlueBay Asset Management, said, “Just not good enough from DB (Deutsche Bank).”

“Perhaps DB needs to take a fresh look at its own ESG framework,” he said, referring to environmental, social, and governance investing criteria.

The turmoil over Russia comes as Deutsche Bank disclosed in its annual report that it paid Mr. Sewing €8.8-million (US$9.68-million) in 2021, a 20-per-cent increase from a year earlier.

Over all, the lender paid 14 per cent more, or €2.1-billion, in bonuses for 2021, rewarding staff for the bank’s most profitable year in a decade.

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