Belgium’s finance ministry has refused Russian state-owned bank VTB’s (VTBR.MM) request for licences to unblock customer assets held through its brokerage accounts, the bank said on Wednesday.

Russia’s second-largest bank, VTB came under sweeping western sanctions as Moscow despatched troops to Ukraine in February 2022, removing it from the SWIFT global payments system and blocking its access to assets in Europe.

VTB has said that the assets of around 500,000 former customers were blocked.

VTB said the Belgian treasury had refused its application for a licence to unblock clients’ assets, but would continue working to try and defend its customers’ interests. It also requested a licence from the Luxembourg finance ministry.

Belgium and Luxembourg’s finance ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A large proportion of Russian assets frozen in the West is held in Euroclear, the Belgium-based financial services company that specialises in settlement and custody of financial assets.