UK PM Boris Johnson Wants Russia Booted From SWIFT

Russia, SWIFT

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday (Feb. 24) pushed “very hard” to remove Russia from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) international payments system, which would severely limit the ability of Russia to trade outside the nation, the Financial Times reported.

While Johnson wants Russia removed from SWIFT — a politically neutral financial messaging network — he said to his ministers that it’s “vital that we have unity” on the issue, according to the report.

Germany and the European Union are more wary of blocking Russia from SWIFT, according to the report.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, tweeted Thursday: “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.”

Johnson has faced criticism in the U.K. for deploying what critics described as “peashooter” sanctions in response to the first stage of Russian aggression in Ukraine, the FT report said. Canada is also said to be in favor of blocking Russia’s SWIFT access. The U.S. has said it’s too early to consider Russia’s removal.

“The sanctions that were imposed on all their banks have equal consequences, maybe more consequences than SWIFT,” said U.S. President Joe Biden. “It is always an option, but right now that’s not the position that the rest of Europe wishes to take.”

Related: US, Europe Levy Russia Sanctions, But All-out SWIFT Ban Not Likely Yet

Belgian-based SWIFT is governed by European law, but the U.S. can still levy sanctions against SWIFT through a series of maneuvers that would create pressure to cut Russia off.

The U.S. has said that it would ban U.S. financial institutions from processing transactions for some of Russia’s largest banks, including VTB Bank, Sberbank, VEB and Gazprombank.