EU Blocks SWIFT Access of Seven Russian Banks, Excludes Those in Energy Transaction

The European Union revealed the names of seven banks that will be excluded from the SWIFT payment system, but the ones that handle energy payments will not be included. Russia’s second largest bank VTB, Bank Rossiya, Novikombank, Bank Otkritie, Promsvyazbank, Sovcombank and VEB have been given 10 days to wind down their SWIFT operations.

SWIFT is the most widely used messaging system for global financial transactions and the EU, the United States, Britain and Canada moved to block certain Russian banks from it on Saturday, but did not disclose which banks would be affected.

Both the U.K. and the U.S. had been pushing for a SWIFT ban, but some member of the EU had to be persuaded because of the bloc’s reliance on Russian energy exports.

SWIFT said it would disconnect the seven banks from its system on March 12 as required by the EU regulations.

Removing Russian banks from SWIFT had been seen as one of the most powerful tools the Western powers have to punish Russia for the invasion of Ukraine. The move was considered unlikely and drastic a week ago.

The EU said the banks were chosen due to their close relations with Kremlin. Public banks had already been sanctioned after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

It was notable that Russia’s largest lender, Sberbank, and Gazprombank were not included in the sanctions. The two banks are the main channels for payments of Russian oil and gas, which the EU continues to import despite the war in Ukraine.

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