WASHINGTON – The US, European allies and Canada agreed on Saturday to remove key Russian banks from the interbank messaging system, SWIFT, an extraordinary move that would separate the country from much of the global financial system.
“This will ensure that these banks are cut off from the international financial system and jeopardize their ability to operate globally,” the global powers wrote in a joint statement announcing significant retaliatory action.
Moscow’s exclusion from SWIFT, which stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, means Russian banks will not be able to communicate securely with banks outside its borders. Iran was expelled from SWIFT in 2014 following developments in Tehran’s nuclear program.
Russian President Vladimir Putin enters St. George Hall at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow.
Mikhail Klimentiev | AFP | Getty Images
SWIFT is an independent company based in Belgium that functions as an internal messaging system between more than 11,000 banks and financial institutions in more than 200 countries and territories.
“Any decision to impose sanctions on countries or individual entities rests entirely with the competent government bodies and applicable legislators,” SWIFT said in a statement. “Established under Belgian law, our obligation is to comply with the relevant EU and Belgian regulations.” The group said it was seeking details on the entities that would be affected by the new effort.
Following the announcement, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal welcomed the move. write on tweet“Appreciate your real support and help in these dark times. The Ukrainian people will never forget this! Stick to the lines! We are on our land.”
In addition, the US and its allies announced that they would impose restrictive measures aimed at preventing Russia’s central bank from deploying its international reserves in a way that could weaken sanctions.
“This would show that Russia’s alleged sanctions proving its economy is a myth. Russia’s $600 billion foreign exchange reserve fund is only strong if Putin can use it,” a senior government official said by telephone with reporters late Saturday.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to share new details about Washington’s position, said the impact of these sanctions would be felt in Russia soon.
“You will soon see the dire effects of the fall on the Russian banking sector even beyond what is already happening,” said a senior administration official. “We have now targeted all 10 of Russia’s largest financial institutions, holding almost 80% of the total assets of the Russian banking sector,” the person added.
Asked if the US had any indication of whether China, the world’s second-largest economy, would help Russia financially amid the sanctions, the official said “China is not coming to the rescue.”
“China is actually restricting some of its banks from providing credit to facilitate energy purchases from Russia, which suggests that as has been the pattern for years, China tends to respect the power of US sanctions,” the official said.
European Commission leaders, France, Germany, Italy, Britain, Canada and the US also plan to limit the sale of gold passports. The official described them as loopholes that allow wealthy Russians connected to the Kremlin to become citizens of other countries and access certain financial systems.
“We will go after their yacht, their luxury apartment, their money and their ability to send their children to luxury colleges in the west,” the official added.
The announcement followed a series of joint sanctions imposed on Russia for its unprovoked attacks on Ukraine.
On Friday, the US along with Britain and the European Union announced sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. In the weeks leading up to the invasion, the Biden administration threatened sanctions in the hope of deterring Putin from further aggression against Ukraine.
“Coffee aficionado nerd. Troublemaker. General communicator. Gamer. Analyst. Creator. Total brew ninja.”