Disconnect Russia from SWIFT immediately: Growing number of nations call to ban Russia from the global payments system

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Demonstrators hold a placard calling on Russia to be banned from the Swift banking system as they attend a protest rally outside of the Russian Embassy in London - AFP
Demonstrators hold a placard calling on Russia to be banned from the Swift banking system as they attend a protest rally outside of the Russian Embassy in London - AFP

Published: Sat 26 Feb 2022, 7:24 PM

Momentum has been growing across the world to cut off Russia from the global SWIFT payment system, with Greece, Italy, and Cyprus joining Canada, the US, Britain, and the European Union in calling for a further round of sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


A Staff Reporter

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Greece on Saturday said that it will support any European Union line on sanctions against Russia, including measures to cut off Moscow from SWIFT, a senior government official said.

“Greece will support the EU’s line on sanctions, including on SWIFT,” the official said, declining to be named.

SWIFT is a secure messaging system facilitating rapid cross-border payments and the main mechanism financing international trade.

Such a move, if taken, would mark a further escalation of concerted sanctions by the West against Russia and would make it harder for Russian companies to do business.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Saturday, saying Greece had favoured the harshest EU sanctions against Russia after its attack and stood ready to provide assistance.

Similarly, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi will also support disconnecting Russia from the global payment system, the leader of a main coalition party said.

“Mario Draghi confirmed Italy will support banning Russia from SWIFT,” Enrico Letta, leader of the PD, wrote on Twitter.

Cyprus, which has extensive business links with both Russia and Ukraine, and was speculated to be among a few countries with reservations about quickly ejecting Moscow from SWIFT, was also quick to clarify its stance on Saturday.

The country has not opposed proposals to cut Russia off from the SWIFT system, Cypriot Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides said. “In the name of EU unity and solidarity to Ukrainian people Cyprus has NOT objected to ANY EU sanctions including cutting Russia off Swift,” Petrides said in a Twitter post.

“Everything is on the table,” Petrides tweeted.

The governor of a central bank within the euro zone also told Reuters on Saturday that a decision to cut Russia off from SWIFT would be taken in a matter of days.

Canada, the United States, Britain, and the European Union had, on Friday, said that they could act to exclude Russia from SWIFT in a further round of sanctions aimed at halting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Such a move could happen in the coming days after officials in two European countries that had voiced reservations - Germany and Italy - softened their opposition against kicking Russia out of the world’s main international payments network, U.S. and European officials said.

It would mark a further escalation of concerted sanctions imposed by Western powers against Russia this week, including rare sanctions aimed personally at Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday.

Western powers are racing to ratchet up pressure on Moscow after Russian forces early on Thursday launched the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War Two.

Earlier this week, sanctions were announced targeting Russian banks, oligarch and exports. Barring Russia from SWIFT could be part of a further round of sanctions, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said on Friday.

Italy, which had been reluctant to take that step, on Friday said it would not veto proposals to ban Russia and pledged to continue working in unison with its EU partners.

Germany, which has the EU’s biggest trade flows with Russia, is also open to banning Russia from SWIFT, but must calculate the consequences for its economy, Finance Minister Christian Lindner said on Friday.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country strongly supported barring Russia from the system. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on leaders of NATO member countries on Friday to take immediate action to remove Russia from SWIFT.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said a decision on SWIFT could happen in the “coming days.”

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said removing Russia from SWIFT “remains an option on the table” and underscored President Joe Biden’s preference to take steps together with allies.

Another US official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said further Western sanctions were expected if the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, fell, something Western officials now believe could happen within days.

— Reuters

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