EU 'Commits' to Cutting Russian Banks Off From SWIFT Over Ukraine Invasion

More member nations are showing support for imposing restrictions on Russia's access to the international banking system.

AccessTimeIconFeb 26, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. UTC
Updated Feb 28, 2022 at 9:05 p.m. UTC

Sandali Handagama is a CoinDesk reporter with a focus on crypto regulation and policy. She does not own any crypto.

Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.

The European Union has "resolved" to isolate Russia from the international financial system, including by blocking some banks from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), the messaging network underpinning global financial transactions.

In blocking Russia from SWIFT, the European Union would block Russian institutions from conducting any interbank transactions with non-Russian entities, effectively cutting it off from the global financial system. The move came days after Russian military forces launched attacks on various cities and military bases in Ukraine, including in the nation’s capitol Kiev.

Italy, Hungary and Cyprus were initially opposed to the move, but expressed support for it on Friday and Saturday. Meanwhile, Germany is in favor of "targeted and functional" restrictions on Russia.

The European Commission formalized this support later Saturday in a public statement attributed to the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, U.K., Canada and U.S.

"We commit to ensuring that selected Russian banks are removed from the SWIFT messaging system. This will ensure that these banks are disconnected from the international financial system and harm their ability to operate globally," the statement said.

The EC also committed to blocking the Russian Central Bank from using its international reserves and preventing Russian oligarchs from buying passports in other nations to reenter the global financial system.

Officials in the EC also plan to launch a "transatlantic task force" to implement sanctions enacted by the EU, U.S., U.K., Japan, Canada, South Korea and several other groups "by identifying and freezing the assets of sanctioned individuals and companies that exist within our jurisdictions," the statement said.

Further sanctions may be announced as part of this effort.

"We are working flat out on how to limit the collateral damage of decoupling from SWIFT in such a way that it affects the right people,” Germany Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said in a statement on Saturday, according to Bloomberg. Officials from European nations plan to meet Sunday to begin work on this process.

Given that SWIFT is based in Belgium, support across the European bloc was critical to expel any country, such as Russia.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden is considering publicly supporting the decision to remove Russia from SWIFT.

On Friday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing that the administration had not taken a SWIFT ban on Russia off the table.

"There’ll be ongoing discussions about that. As you know, SWIFT is a messaging service that connects 11,000 banks. And many would argue that there are ways that – that Russia – the Russian leadership could get around that over the course of time, but it certainly remains an option on the table," Psaki said.

UPDATE (Feb. 26, 2022, 20:10 UTC): Adds additional details.

UPDATE (Feb. 26, 2022, 22:15 UTC): Adds EC statement.


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Sandali Handagama is a CoinDesk reporter with a focus on crypto regulation and policy. She does not own any crypto.

CoinDesk - Unknown

Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.

CoinDesk - Unknown

Sandali Handagama is a CoinDesk reporter with a focus on crypto regulation and policy. She does not own any crypto.

CoinDesk - Unknown

Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.

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