KIEV, March 13 - The Kiev headquarters of Russia's state-owned Sberbank has suspended operations in the midst of protests by anti-Kremlin demonstrators who blocked the entrance and windows of the building with concrete blocks on March 13, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.
Sberbank said it had officially asked police in Kiev to protect the building as the protest continued on March 13.
Sberbank's other branches in Kiev were continuing operations.
Dozens of anti-Kremlin protesters from Ukraine's nationalist Azov activist group who blocked the Sberbank headquarters are demanding a ban on Sberbank's operations in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Azov activists claimed responsibility for using insulation foam on March 13 to damage dozens of ATM machines belonging to Russian banks in cities across Ukraine -- including Kiev, Odessa, Kharkiv, Cherkasy, and Chernihiv.
In a March 13 statement, Sberbank said it was "highly concerned about the situation in Ukraine linked to the actions of representatives of nationalist groups."
The Russian bank's statement said its Ukrainian subsidiary "has already appealed to law-enforcement bodies and we hope that all necessary steps will be swiftly taken to ensure the safety of our workers and clients and protect property."
Sberbank also said on March 13 that there have been 26 acts of vandalism against its branch offices and ATM machines across Ukraine during the previous week.
Protests against Sberbank began on March 7 after Sberbank said it would recognize passports issued by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
A February 18 decree by Russian President Vladimir Putin's ordered all Russian authorities to recognize identity documents issued by pro-Russia separatists who hold parts of Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
On March 7, Ukraine's National Bank threatened to impose sanctions on the Ukrainian subsidiary of Sberbank if it recognizes the separatist regions' documents.
Sberbank on March 9 retracted its earlier statement, saying it is not going to recognize separatist-issued documents. (rl/ez)