US, EU refuse Russia ban from SWIFT, Ukraine official says 'blood of innocents' will be on their hands

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The U.S. and its European allies announced sanctions on Thursday that are expected to pummel Russia’s economy following its invasion of Ukraine, but the sanctions failed to target the SWIFT international banking system. 

“I will not be diplomatic on this. Everyone who now doubts whether Russia should be banned from SWIFT has to understand that the blood of innocent Ukrainian men, women and children will be on their hands too,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a Twitter post. “Ban Russia from SWIFT.”

Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S. echoed these sentiments and urged its Western allies to block Russia from the international banking system.

A wounded woman is seen as airstrike damages an apartment complex outside of Kharkiv, Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
(Photo by Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“We believe Russia should be discontinued from anything that democratic countries allow them to be a part of,” Ambassador Oksana Markarova said during a press event Thursday. “We strongly ask everyone to support the discontinuation of SWIFT, disconnecting Russia from SWIFT.”

Removing Moscow from the international banking system would effectively cut Russia off from top financial networks.

The international program allows banks worldwide to securely and efficiently communicate with one another and it facilitates trillions of dollars worth of cross-border transactions. 

But the U.S. and it’s European Union allies failed to block Russia’s access to SWIFT in its second tranche of sanctions Thursday.

President Biden claimed that by targeting the banks Russia will feel an “equal consequence” to being removed from the international banking system when pressed on the decision by reporters from the White House. 

“It is always an option but right now, that’s not the position that the rest of Europe wishes to take,” he added, suggesting this could be included in a later round of sanctioning. 

But not all U.S. allies agreed.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives to deliver an address on the attack by Russia on Ukraine, in Downing Street, London, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. (Jeff Mitchell /Pool Photo via AP)

Reports surfaced Thursday suggesting that U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson pushed German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a call leading up to the G7 meeting to encourage his support for barring Russia from SWIFT.

But the chancellor allegedly expressed reservations about how it would affect the E.U.’s negotiating ability. 

Canada was reportedly on board with the proposal while Italy too opposed the ban.

“I know that this House will have great interest in the potential of cutting Russia out from Swift,” Johnson said in an address to Parliament following Thursday’s discussions. “As I’ve always said, that nothing is off the table. But for all these measures to be successful, it is vital that we have the unity of our partners, the unity in the G7 and other forum fora.”

In coordination with 27 members of the E.U., the entirety of the G7 – which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.K. – and allied nations like Australia, New Zealand and Japan, the U.S. introduced a second round of sanctions that will target Russian banks that cumulatively hold roughly $1 trillion in assets.

The latest sanctions came just one day after Washington froze another $80 billion in assets from two major financial institutions with ties to the Kremlin and Russia’s military. 

Ukrainian Military Forces servicemen block a road in the so-called government quarter in Kyiv on February 24, 2022 as Russia’s ground forces invaded Ukraine from several directions today.
(Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

“We’re in full and total agreement,” Biden said in reference to a meeting he had with G7 leaders Thursday. “We will limit Russia’s ability to do business in Dollars, Euros, Pounds and Yen.

“We’re going to stop the ability to finance and grow Russia [and] the Russian military,” the president added. “We’ve already seen the impact of our actions on Russia’s currency and the ruble – which early today hit its weakest level ever, ever in history.”

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