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.
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.
This is the beginning of a new page in the history of our states 🇺🇦 🇮🇹. #MarioDraghi in a phone conversation supported Russia's disconnection from SWIFT, the provision of defense assistance. Ukraine must become part of the #EU.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) February 26, 2022
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.
From their phone call, he claimed that France says it’s “ready to supply weapons and military equipment to help Ukraine defend itself”.
Call with my French counterpart @JY_LeDrian. France supports banning Russia from SWIFT. I urged to immediately introduce the third package of EU sanctions to stop Russian invasion. France is also ready to supply weapons and military equipment to help Ukraine defend itself.
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) February 26, 2022
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”.
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.