UK outlines efforts to cut Russia from SWIFT

London said it would work with partners to cut Moscow from the international financial network

The UK government will try to persuade its allies to sever Russia from the SWIFT global banking system and impose a series of harsh sanctions following Moscow’s military operations in Ukraine. Washington earlier said it would not look to target the payment network.

“We will not rest until Russia’s economy has been degraded and Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity restored,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement, adding that “the UK is working with allies to exclude Russia from the SWIFT financial system.”

The UK will also:

❌ ban Aeroflot from UK airspace
❌ cut off wealthy Russians’ access to UK banks including limits on investments
❌ work with allies to ban Russia from the SWIFT financial system#StandWithUkraine 🇬🇧🇺🇦

— Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (@FCDOGovUK) February 24, 2022

The British Foreign Commonwealth Office announced the new round of penalties on Thursday, describing them as the “most punishing sanctions” designed to “inflict maximum and lasting pain on Russia.” 

London will also target more than 100 Russian companies with asset freezes and travel bans, shut out Russian banks from British financial markets, impose new trade and export restrictions and ban the country’s national airline, Aeroflot, from UK airspace. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier hinted at a “massive package of economic sanctions” meant to “hobble” Russia’s economy, words echoed by US President Joe Biden, whose administration also announced a raft of “unprecedented and expansive” measures to “degrade [Russia’s] industrial capacity for years to come.”

On SWIFT, however, Biden indicated that his administration would not take the same steps as the UK, saying that the sanctions he already outlined could have “more consequence” than any action toward the global payments network.

Similar sanctions were declared by a number of Western and EU allies, some of which also called to cut off Russia from SWIFT – all in response to Moscow’s “special military operation” launched in the Donbass in the early hours of Thursday in support of two newly recognized breakaway republics.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, however, has urged against excluding Moscow from the payment system, arguing that the measure should not be part of a second EU sanctions package set to be discussed in Brussels.

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