UK, EU and US to cut 'selected' Russian banks off from Swift payments system

Boris Johnson pictured with the EU Commission's president, Ursula von der Leyen, in 2020.

The US, EU and UK have pledged to remove "selected" Russian banks from Swift and impose restrictions on the Russian central bank.

The Swift payment network is pivotal for the smooth transaction of money worldwide.

At the same time, the three entities said they will be imposing “restrictive measures” to prevent the Russian Central Bank from deploying its international reserves “in ways that undermine the impact of our sanctions”.

Ukrainian service members collect shells after fighting with Russian raiding group in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Saturday morning. Credit: Getty

The EU Commission's president, Ursula von der Leyen, said the bloc would also “commit to taking measures to limit the sale of citizenship - so called golden passports - that let wealthy Russians connected to the Russian government become citizens of our countries and gain access to our financial systems”.

Before the moves were announced late on Saturday night, Boris Johnson told reporters there were some “very grim days ahead for Ukraine” and warned that “much tougher” economic sanctions against Russia were needed.

“Swift is the mechanism that stops people making payments to Vladimir Putin’s Russia," he said.

“It’s incredibly important for tightening the ligature – the economic ligature – around the Putin regime."

Earlier German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced he was dropping his country’s opposition to the move, removing a major obstacle to international agreement. Britain had been pressing for action on Swift – described by one minister as the “ultimate economic sanction” – for some time.

Lucy Watson reports from a train filled with people fleeing Ukraine for Poland

Germany and Italy – which both rely heavily on Russia oil and gas imports – were among the countries said to be reluctant. The move came on the day the expected Russian assault on the the Ukrainian capital Kyiv failed to materialise. Despite skirmishing in the outskirts of the city, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in its latest intelligence assessment that the Russian advance had “temporarily slowed”. With the main Russia armoured columns reported to be 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the centre of Kyiv, the MoD said the delay was likely to be the result of “acute logistics problems” as well as the strength of Ukrainian resistance. The city’s defenders remained braced however for an onslaught – possibly as early as Sunday – once the Russians have refuelled and re-supplied. Mr Johnson said: “Let’s be in no doubt, things are not going all the way of President Putin, very far from it. “The Ukrainians are fighting heroically, and in some places with great success, as many of us thought they would because they’re a great country and a very brave country. “But there are some terrible atrocities being committed and there will be some very grim days ahead for Ukraine.”