BRUSSELS, March 2 (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.
The banks will have ten days to wind down their SWIFT operations, are Russia’s second-largest bank VTB, and 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.
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 simply to allow energy-related transactions and exclude others as SWIFT could not differentiate between types of payments. However, the official added that these two banks were subject to other measures.
The European Union, United States, Britain, and Canada moved on Saturday to block certain Russian banks from SWIFT, with some 11,000 members and 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. In addition, banks could still carry out transfers through workarounds such as faxes or bilateral messaging systems.