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Swift Moves to Ban Russia

British prime minister David Cameron is urging EU nations to cut off Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging network, in order to put pressure on Russia as the crisis in Ukraine escalates, according to Finextra.

At a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels on Saturday (Aug. 30), Cameron reportedly pushed for a motion on Russian access to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication network, which is one of Russia’s primary connections to the international financial system. Cameron is also expected to raise the issue at a meeting of NATO leaders in Wales this week.

Similar restrictions were imposed on Iran in 2012 over that country’s nuclear program. But cutting off Russian banks would have wider ranging effects on international trade.

SWIFT doesn’t directly handle financial transfers, but sends payment orders between banks on the network. The system transmitted more than 21 million financial messages per day between 10,500 financial institutions and corporations in 215 countries last month.

Russia has already drafted a bill to create its own system for domestic bank transfers, Russian Deputy Finance Minister Alexey Moiseev told the state-run Itar-Tass news service.

Earlier efforts to disrupt the flow of payments to Russian businesses through credit-card networks have created major problems for Visa and MasterCard. Responding to the sanctions, Russian president Vladimir Putin introduced a new law requiring the U.S. card brands to deposit billions of dollars of collateral with the central bank. Putin also announced plans to build a competitive payment network.

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