The European Union redoubles the pressure on Putin as Russian attacks on Ukraine intensify. As announced this Saturday night by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the 27 finalize the decision to exclude Russian banks from the Swift international payment communication system, as well as the decision to restrict the movement of assets of the Russian central bank.
What is Swift and what would it mean to leave Russia out of its payment system
“Very close to the eastern border of the EU, Russia is committing barbarities, killing innocents and throwing bombs,” said Von der Leyen: “At the same time, the world is witness to Ukrainian heroism.”
Thus, the president of the European Commission has announced “massive costs that will isolate Russia from the financial system.” Those “massive costs”, according to Von der Leyen, have been decided in coordination with the president of the USA, Joe Biden; French President Emmanuel Macron; British Prime Minister Boris Johnson; Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; German Chancellor Olaf Scholz; and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi”.
In other words, the EU is attempting “to stifle Putin’s access to financing and diminish his ability to pay for his illegal and barbaric invasion of Ukraine”, in the words of the European Commission’s economic vice-president, Valdis Dombrovskis: “The links of the Russian state with the global financial system are being cut off rapidly.
Thus, in a joint statement signed by the leaders of the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, it is stated: “First of all, we are committed to ensuring that a certain number of Russian banks banks are removed from the Swift payment communication system. This will ensure that these banks are disconnected from the international financial system, thus hampering their ability to operate globally.”
“Swift is the world’s dominant global interbank payment system,” Von der Leyen explained in his speech: “Cutting off the banks will prevent them from conducting most of their financial transactions around the world and will effectively block Russian exports and imports.” .
In addition, the joint statement announces: “Secondly, we are committed to imposing restrictive measures that will prevent the Central Bank of Russia from deploying its international reserves to try to undermine the impact of our sanctions.”
As explained by Von der Leyen, this means “paralyzing the assets of the Russian central bank, freezing its transactions, making it impossible for the Central Bank to liquidate its assets.”
“Thirdly”, the leaders commit “to act against the people and entities that facilitate the war in Ukraine. Specifically, we commit to take measures to limit the so-called golden passportswhich allow wealthy Russians connected to the Kremlin to become citizens of our countries and gain access to our financial systems.”
And finally, they announce: “We commit to launching next week a transatlantic task force that will ensure the effective implementation of our financial sanctions by identifying and freezing the assets of sanctioned individuals and companies in our jurisdictions. As part of this effort, we commit to apply sanctions and other financial measures to officials and oligarchs close to the Russian government, as well as their families and collaborators, and freeze the assets they hold in our jurisdictions.We will also engage other governments to detect and disrupt the movement of ill-gotten gains, and to deny these individuals the ability to hide their assets in jurisdictions around the world.”
German decisive turn
The measures announced this Saturday night come hours before an extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers has been called for this Sunday at 6:00 p.m. It is the fourth time that the foreign ministers have met this week to assess the situation and approve sanctions such as those announced by Von der Leyen.
But the European Commission’s announcements also come after the German government has reversed its position, initially against exclusions from the Swift mechanism. But not only in that: this Saturday he has authorized countries like the Netherlands to send weapons to Ukraine. And, what is even more, the German government itself is sending weapons to Ukraine and has announced the closure of the airspace to Russian flights.
Thus, Germany has authorized the shipment of anti-tank weapons and missiles to Ukraine, with which the country ends the blockade on sending lethal weapons to war zones.
400 German-made rocket launchers have been approved from the Netherlands to Ukraine, along with 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 missiles. According to different media and agencies, the approval has been confirmed by the Foreign Ministry, and may mark a change in policy, since this guideline has its origin in the role of Germany in the 20th century.
“After Russia’s shameless attack, Ukraine must be able to defend itself,” said Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. “The German government is supporting Ukraine to equip it with urgently needed material.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has also announced the shipment of 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger missiles to Ukraine: “The Russian invasion marks a turning point,” Scholz said. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has responded to Scholz with another tweet: “Keep it up, Chancellor. Anti-war coalition in action!”
In parallel, this Saturday the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, has called a meeting of foreign ministers for this Sunday at 6:00 p.m. to “adopt new measures to support Ukraine against Russia’s aggression,” according to what he has advanced. himself on his Twitter account.
“I will propose an emergency aid package for the Ukrainian armed forces, to support them in their heroic fight,” Borrell said.
This Friday, EU ministers agreed on a second round of sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin and his close circle for Thursday’s invasion of Ukraine.