US and Europe to pull some Russian banks from SWIFT, stepping up economic sanctions

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AFP

People queue outside a branch of Russia’s state-owned bank Sberbank to withdraw their savings and close their accounts in Prague on February 25, 2022, before Sberbank closes all of its branches in the Czech Republic later in the day. US President Biden was the first to announce sanctions, hours after Russian President Putin declared a “military operation” in Ukraine. The first tranche will affect four Russian banks – including the country’s two largest, Sberbank and VTB Bank – which have cut off more than half of Russia’s technology imports and will target several of the country’s oligarchs.

The White House announced on Saturday that the United States, joined by European countries and Canada, would withdraw some Russian banks from SWIFT, the payment system used for most international financial transactions.

This is a major move to step up the West’s economic sanctions against Moscow for its ongoing military operations in Ukraine.

The White House said in a joint statement that, together with the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, Britain and Canada, the United States supports the expulsion of “certain Russian banks ” of SWIFT “in the coming days”, in order to “further isolate Russia from the international financial system and our economies”.

Evicting these Russian banks from SWIFT, the high-security network that connects thousands of financial institutions around the world, “will ensure that these banks are disconnected from the international financial system and will harm their ability to operate globally”, says the press release.

In addition, restrictive measures will be imposed to “prevent the Russian Central Bank from deploying its international reserves” so as to undermine the impact of Western sanctions, the statement said.

Measures will also be taken to limit the sale of the so-called “golden passports” in order to prevent “wealthy Russians linked to the Russian government” from becoming citizens of the aforementioned countries and to ensure that these people cannot “access to our financial systems. »

The leaders of these countries have also pledged to launch a joint task force next week to enforce the implementation of financial sanctions.

The joint statement also called on other governments to “detect and disrupt” the flow of earnings from these Russian elites and deny their ability to hide their assets in jurisdictions around the world.

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