Italy and France back blocking Russia from Swift banking system

After Russia's invasion of Ukraine, more EU nations on Saturday pledged support for a ban on Russia from a global payments network.

Italy and France back blocking Russia from Swift banking system
French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and Italian Premier Mario Draghi have both expressed support for banning Russia from the Swift banking system. (Photo by Domenico Stinellis / POOL / AFP)

EU leaders including France and Italy’s prime ministers are moving to exclude Russia from using the Swift banking network, in a bid to step up sanctions on the country.

The move would hit Russian trade as Swift permits rapid cross-border payments and is the main means for financing international business.

Italy’s prime minister Mario Draghi spoke to Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday to reiterate that “Italy fully supports and will continue to support the European Union’s line on sanctions against Russia, including those regarding Swift,” the government confirmed in a statement.

EXPLAINED: How Italy could be impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Draghi added that Italy “will provide Ukraine with assistance to defend itself”.

Ukraine’s president welcomed the phone call with Italy’s political leader, stating that it marked a a “beginning” between Ukraine and Italy.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba wrote in a tweet that the French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, also showed support for piling financial pressure on Russia by banning it from the Swift financial system.

READ ALSO: How life in France could be impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine

From their phone call, he claimed that France says it’s “ready to supply weapons and military equipment to help Ukraine defend itself”.

The fresh support for this sanction marks a U-turn for some EU leaders as Italy, Germany and other European nations were heavily criticised on Thursday for their reservations about cutting Russia off from the Swift international payments system.

Former European Council President Donald Tusk hit back on Friday, saying some EU governments had “disgraced themselves” by blocking “tough decisions”.

READ ALSO: Is Italy pushing to exclude luxury goods sales to Russia from EU sanctions?

Germany has expressed a lukewarm response to banning Russia from Swift payments, by suggesting it is open to the idea but needs to calculate the economic impact first, Finance Minister Christian Lindner said on Friday.

Russia launched a full-scale attack against Ukraine on Thursday, to which the EU has since responded by announcing various sanctions against Russia.

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France ‘strongly condemns’ Russia’s expulsion of its diplomats

France "strongly condemns" the expulsion of 34 of its diplomats by Russia, the foreign ministry said Wednesday, a tit-for-tat move by Moscow after Paris ordered some Russian staff to leave.

France 'strongly condemns' Russia's expulsion of its diplomats

Saying the step had “no legitimate basis”, the ministry said in a statementthat “the work of the diplomats and staff at (France’s) embassy in Russia… takes place fully within the framework of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic and consular relations” — whereas Paris expelled the Russian staff in April on suspicion of being spies.

Moscow said Wednesday it was expelling 34 “employees of French diplomatic missions” in a tit-for-tat move following the
expulsion of Russian diplomats from France as part of joint European action over Russia’s campaign in Ukraine.

“Thirty four employees of French diplomatic missions in Russia have been declared persona non grata,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that they have two weeks to leave the country.

Moscow made the announcement after summoning France’s ambassador to Russia, Pierre Levy, and telling him that the expulsion of 41 employees of Russian diplomatic missions was a “provocative and unfounded decision”, the statement

“It has been stressed that this step causes serious damage to Russian-French relations and constructive bilateral cooperation,” the foreign ministry said.

French President Emmanuel Macron initially led diplomatic outreach to the Kremlin over Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine but his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin have eventually tapered off and overt French military
support to Ukraine has increased in recent months.