EU excludes seven Russian banks from SWIFT - official journal.

002, Mar 2022

BRUSSELS (Reuters) The European Union is excluding seven Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system that underpins global transactions as part of its sanctions over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the EU official journal said on Wednesday.

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The banks, which will be given ten days to wind down their SWIFT operations, are Russia's second-largest bank VTB, Bank Otrkitie, Novikombank, Promsvyazbank, Bank Rossiya, Sovcombank and VEB.

A senior EU official explained that the banks on its list were chosen based on their connections to the Russian state, with public banks already subject to sanctions following Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

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"All these banks that we have listed under SWIFT... they are all based on their connection to the state and the implicit connection to the war effort. We have not gone for a blanket ban across the whole banking system," the official said.

Sberbank, Russia's largest lender, and Gazprombank have not been included in the list because they are the main channels for payments for Russian oil and gas, which EU countries are still buying despite the conflict.

The EU official said it was not possible to allow energy-related transactions and exclude others as SWIFT could not differentiate between types of payments. The official added that these two banks were nevertheless subject to other measures.

The European Union, United States, Britain and Canada moved on Saturday to block certain Russian banks from SWIFT, although they did not say at that point which banks would be hit.

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SWIFT has some 11,000 members and has no clear global rival. Although it remains small, EU officials said, despite a Russian system, SWIFT was still used for some 70% of transfers within Russia.

Otherwise, banks could still be carrying out transfers through workarounds such as faxes or bilateral messaging systems if they existed.

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