(Bloomberg) -- UBS Group AG outgoing Chairman Axel Weber said that he sees no future for many international banks in Russia even if there’s a cease-fire, after the Swiss bank began winding down its business there. 

UBS has halted new business in Russia, where it has about 70 people, although there are exemptions in the sanctions for Russian citizens that live in the European Union and in Switzerland, Weber said in an interview with Bloomberg TV’s Francine Lacqua. He declined to say how much money the bank manages for Russian clients.

“We’ve been reducing our exposure to Russia both on the collateral side and on the client tremendously already since January because tensions were looming,” Weber said. “I personally, and this is for my successors to decide, do not see any future of business onshore in Russia for many of the international banks because even if we come to a cease-fire, Russia has put itself outside the international community and this will have a pretty long-dated consequence.” 

Negotiators from Ukraine and Russia are meeting in Istanbul on Tuesday to try to clinch a cease-fire and at least temporarily halt the 34-day war in Ukraine. Heading into the talks, both sides differed vastly on disputed positions including the state of territories occupied by Russian troops and security guarantees. 

Wealthy Russians with links to President Vladimir Putin have seen their assets frozen across the world after the invasion, while other rich bank clients who borrowed against Russian assets have been forced to come up with more collateral after those securities plunged in value. Large European banks with a significant presence in Russia, such as UniCredit SpA and Raiffeisen Bank International AG are also now weighing possible exits from the country.

The role of Switzerland as a place for Russia’s wealthy to stash their money is coming under increased scrutiny, after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy criticized the nation earlier this month. The government in Bern said recently that it had received notification of some $6 billion in assets held by sanctioned individuals.

Switzerland joined international sanctions against Russia last month, a notable step for a country which counts permanent neutrality as a pillar of its foreign policy. Weber called that “the right signal to send” and said a majority of the Swiss population supported it. The move won’t hurt the country’s finance industry, according to Weber, who compared it to local banks’ automatic exchange of information with foreign authorities, which started in 2017 to shed the country’s reputation as a tax haven.

Weber is set to step down as chairman of UBS in the coming days after almost a decade in charge. He’s being replaced by former Morgan Stanley executive Colm Kelleher.

Weber, in a wide ranging interview that also touched upon his views that central banks are behind the curve on inflation and on banker pay, also said that he could only envision talks on a merger between Credit Suisse and UBS taking place in an emergency.

“The regulators in general have set a very high bar for the merger of global systemic banks which both us and Credit Suisse are,” Weber said. “I can only see that as an emergency discussion but I don’t see that now and I don’t see it for the next time to come,” he added.

(Adds context on talks in fourth paragraph, comments on neutrality issue in seventh)

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