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Russia’s exclusion from SWIFT payment system gains traction

Swift logo is placed on a Russian flag are seen in this illustration taken, Bosnia and Herzegovina, February 25, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

In a new round of penalties aimed at halting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union warned on Friday that they could act to exclude Russia from the SWIFT global interbank payments system.

The news: Officials in two European countries that had expressed doubts – Germany and Italy – have eased their objections to Russia being kicked out of the world’s main international payments network, according to US and European officials.

  • This would have a negative impact on Russian trade and make it more difficult for Russian enterprises to do business. SWIFT is a secure messaging system that allows for quick cross-border payments and is the primary method of funding international trade.
  • It would be the culmination of a week of coordinated sanctions implemented by Western powers against Russia, which included rare sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday.

What’s going on: After Russian military began the largest attack by one state on another in Europe since World War Two early on Thursday, Western powers are racing to increase pressure on Moscow.

  • Sanctions against Russian banks, oligarchs, and exports were imposed earlier this week.
  • According to European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, excluding Russia from SWIFT might be part of a new round of penalties.
  • Italy, which had been hesitant to take such a step, said on Friday that it would not block plans to ban Russia and that it would continue to negotiate with its EU partners.
  • Germany, which has the largest trade flows with Russia in the EU, is open to suspending Russia from SWIFT, but must weigh the economic ramifications, according to Finance Minister Christian Lindner.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada stated that his country strongly supports Russia’s exclusion from the system.
  • On Friday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged NATO leaders to take immediate steps to suspend Russia from the SWIFT system.

What’s important: SWIFT could be decided in the “coming days,” according to EU foreign policy leader Josep Borrell.

  • Taking Russia out of SWIFT “remains an option on the table,” according to White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki, who also emphasised President Joe Biden’s preference for taking steps jointly with friends.
  • Another US official, who was not authorised to speak publicly, said that if the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, fell, which Western diplomats now anticipate might happen within days, more Western sanctions would be imposed.
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