ECONOMY

EU could cut Russia off SWIFT, official says

EU could cut Russia off SWIFT, official says

The European Union could exclude Russia from the SWIFT global interbank payments system in a fresh round of sanctions, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said on Friday.

“Putin wants war. But people want peace, freedom and the right to make their choices,” she said on Twitter.

“Further, massive, sanctions, with nothing off the table, are important – we can do more. Including the exclusion of Russia from the SWIFT system.”

Earlier Friday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had argued that the package of banking sanctions that the European Union is imposing will hit Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government harder than excluding Russia from SWIFT.

Speaking from Brussels, she told ARD public television that excluding Russia from SWIFT would make it impossible to support civil rights groups in Russia from abroad, or for Russian students abroad to send money to help their grandmothers, she told ARD public television.

“The sword that looks hardest isn’t always the cleverest one,” she said. “It’s not just oligarchs who do financial transactions… The sharper sword at the moment is listing banks. Government bonds can’t be sold abroad any more.”

EU opted not to curb Russian energy imports, or – after objections from Germany, Hungary, Italy and Cyprus – to cut Russia off from SWIFT.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, hosting a meeting of EU counterparts in Paris to discuss the economic impact, said removing Russia from SWIFT remained an option, but only as a “financial nuclear weapon” of last resort.

He said some EU countries – but not France – have reservations about such a step, and the European Central Bank was expected to deliver an analysis “in the coming hours” on the consequences if it was taken. 

Sanctions would be effective in the medium or long term against a leader who was “ruining his country, not just economically, but also for young people who want a future together in Europe”, Baerbock said, but admitted they would not immediately stop Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

“He (Putin) doesn’t want to stop at any price, whether it costs him international isolation, or his country’s economic future,” she said. “If he violates our values then he can’t stay part of the international community.”

Baerbock also said Russia’s offer of talks with Ukraine to be held in Minsk had not even been discussed at the meeting of European Union foreign ministers she was attending, since it was a “poisoned offer”.

(Reuters)