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UK leads drive to exclude Russia from SWIFT banking network

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is believed to be on a diplomatic mission in Europe to convince allies to exclude Russia from this key banking system, which had last collectively sanctioned Iran in 2012.

February 26, 2022 / 04:54 PM IST
Russia has drawn sanctions from the UK and the US following its attack in Ukraine (Image: Reuters)

Russia has drawn sanctions from the UK and the US following its attack in Ukraine (Image: Reuters)

The UK government is leading the charge in Europe to exclude Russia from the worldwide SWIFT banking network, as part of tough sanctions designed to deliver a financial blow to President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) is the world's main banking messaging service which links around 11,000 banks and institutions in more than 200 countries, including India.

Based in Belgium, the system is considered central to the smooth functioning of global finances and Russia's exclusion from it would hit the country hard. However, while Canada and some American senators are in line with the UK on this, there is reluctance within the European Union (EU) over what is seen as a last resort move that will impact oil and gas payments.

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"The Prime Minister urged leaders to take immediate action against SWIFT to inflict maximum pain on President Putin and his regime," Downing Street said with reference to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's meeting with NATO leaders on Friday.

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This was followed up during a phone call with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau soon after, when Johnson reiterated the same message.

"The Prime Minister said allies needed to take immediate action on SWIFT, and the leaders discussed further options to increase coordinated economic pressure on Russia," notes the Downing Street readout of the call.

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is believed to be on a diplomatic mission in Europe to convince allies to exclude Russia from this key banking system, which had last collectively sanctioned Iran in 2012.

"Britain wants the SWIFT system to be turned off for Russia. But unfortunately, the SWIFT system is not in our control – it's not a unilateral decision," UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the BBC.

He noted: "When you pay Russia for its gas, it probably goes through the Swift system, for example. It is based in Belgium. It has a number of partners that control it or nation-states.

"We want it switched off. Other countries do not. We only have so many options. We are going to work all day to try and get it (switched off for Russia)." The focus on SWIFT comes as Prime Minister Johnson told the leaders of NATO, the western military alliance which stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, that the UK would "imminently" impose direct sanctions on Russian President Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over Russia's aggression which threatened all of Europe.

"The Prime Minister told the group that a catastrophe was engulfing Ukraine, and President Putin was engaging in a revanchist mission to over-turn post-Cold War order. He warned the group that the Russian President's ambitions might not stop there and that this was a Euro-Atlantic crisis with global consequences," Downing Street said after the meeting on Friday.

Later, Johnson released a video message in Russian as a direct appeal to the people of the country.

In the video posted on Twitter, he said: ''I do not believe this war is in your name.

''The scenes unfolding in the streets and fields of Ukraine are nothing short of a tragedy. Brave young soldiers and innocent civilians are being cut down, tanks are rumbling through towns and cities, missiles raining indiscriminately from the skies.

''It's a generation or more since we witnessed such bloodshed in Europe. We hoped we would never have to see such sights again." In an attempt to stress that the UK's actions are targeted at the leadership rather than the Russian people, Johnson added that ''Putin's actions are leading to complete isolation for Russia''.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has provoked condemnation from countries in the West and retaliatory sanctions. Russian banks, businesses and oligarchs have been targeted with tough sanctions and the country's national airline, Aeroflot, has been banned from landing at UK airports or flying through its airspace, alongside any private jets from the country.

Meanwhile, a United Nations Security Council draft resolution telling Moscow to stop attacking Ukraine and withdraw all troops immediately was vetoed by Russia. India abstained from the vote, calling for a return to the "path of diplomacy" and cessation of violence.



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PTI
first published: Feb 26, 2022 04:54 pm
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