What is SWIFT, the banking system seen as the toughest sanction against Russia?

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(NEXSTAR) – The United States and European countries agreed on Saturday to impose the most potentially crippling financial sanctions yet on Russia for its relentless invasion of Ukraine.

The move includes removing major Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging system, which moves countless billions of dollars across more than 11,000 banks and other financial institutions around the world daily.

SWIFT, or Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, is a global system that facilitates financial communications between more than 11,000 institutions in more than 200 countries.

In the absence of military intervention, blocking access to the SWIFT payment system – which is overseen by G-10 central banks in 11 countries – is considered one of the toughest sanctions against Russia .

There are fears that Russia could develop a workaround when booted from SWIFT, which could lead to “stronger ties with China or the development of a digital currency” to circumvent economic problems, according to the point of sale.

Ukrainian leaders, including President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, have meanwhile chastised the European Union for not including Russia’s withdrawal from SWIFT in previous sanctions packages.

“I will not be a diplomat on this” tweeted Kuleba Thursday. “Anyone who now doubts that Russia should be banished from Swift must understand that the blood of innocent Ukrainian men, women and children will also be on their hands.”

“BAN RUSSIA FROM SWIFT,” he concluded the message.

Among the sanctions that have been announced, the United States has cut the big Russian banks financial system and imposed policies that would make it difficult for public and private companies to raise funds from investors. Along with allies in the EU, Britain and Japan, the United States is also cutting imports of semiconductors and other high-tech equipment.

The EU has also agreed to freeze the assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the Associated Press reported on Thursday, while Switzerland has agreed to freeze the assets of anyone on the list of EU sanctions, Reuters reported.

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