Serbs hit the Moscow theatre
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Serbs hit the Moscow theatre

Take a trip to Moscow and you might come away with the impression that AKA Bank is one of Russia's largest financial institutions. A huge advert for the bank bears down in passport control outside Sheremetyevo airport and also appears on the back of cloakroom tags at the Bolshoi theatre, accompanied by the slogan "the customer is king at our bank" - a concept new to anyone accustomed to the Byzantine ways of Russian banks.

But AKA is neither large nor in the mainstream of finance. A Russian-Yugoslav joint venture, it opened in 1992 when most western banks regarded Russia as too risky. Its main shareholders are Interlena, a conglomerate from Yakutsk in eastern Siberia, several Cypriot-based companies and Karic banka, one of the leading banks in Serbia.

Russia was the only major power that stood up for Serbs during the war in Yugoslavia. Serbian companies have benefited from these political links, and trade between the two countries blossomed during the early 1990s, despite international trade sanctions on rump Yugoslavia. But AKA Bank's focus is the whole CIS. "About 85% of our business involves Ukraine, Lithuania, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as Russia" says a bank spokesman.

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