September 26, 2023


The EU wants to cut off Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank, from the SWIFT international payments system, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced Wednesday.

In a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the head of the Commission said the EU would “finally de-SWIFT Sberbank” in its latest package of sanctions against Russia.

The EU will also take the same step against two other Russian banks, von der Leyen said, without naming them. POLITICO reported on Tuesday they are Credit Bank of Moscow and the Russian Agricultural Bank.

“We hit banks that are systemically critical to the Russian financial system and Putin’s ability to wage destruction,” said the Commission president. “This will solidify the complete isolation of the Russian financial sector from the global system.”

Wednesday’s announcement marks a sharpening of the EU’s strategy toward Russian banks.

The EU has been much slower at sanctioning Sberbank than the U.K. and U.S. for fear of the consequences for oil payments. But the political tide may be shifting with an oil ban now on the table.

The Bruegel think tank and the Peterson Institute for International Economics estimated on April 15 that the EU had only hit 26 percent of the Russian banking sector with sanctions.

The EU could pay for oil and gas through one bank, the authors Joshua Kirschenbaum and Nicolas Véron argued, giving it space to ratchet up the sanctions against Sberbank and other large Russian banks.

While such a move would not dramatically change the impact on Russia’s economy, it would further damage international businesses’ ability to operate in Russia and tighten sanctions loopholes, they said.


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