Kyiv/Moscow, Feb 27 (EFE).- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rejoiced Sunday in the news that the United States and the European Union will bar some Russian banks from the SWIFT payment system that underpins international banking as a way to punish Moscow for its ongoing attack on Ukraine.
“It seems that Ukraine has won the sincerity and the attention of the entire normal and civilized world,” he said shortly after midnight Saturday in a video message to the nation.
The exclusion of banks from SWIFT is tantamount to “disconnection from the global financial civilization,” Zelenskyy said.
“Our diplomats struggled 24 hours a day to inspire all European countries to agree on a very strong and just decision to disconnect Russia from the international interbank network,” he said, calling the announcement an “imporant victory.”
The accord actually speaks of excluding some Russian banks from SWIFT, not every financial institution in Russia.
“We commit to ensuring that selected Russian banks are removed from the SWIFT messaging system,” the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the US said in a joint statement published by the White House.
“This will ensure that these banks are disconnected from the international financial system and harm their ability to operate globally,” the statement continued.
The announcement followed days of intense consultations among the Western allies, some of whom suggested caution regarding SWIFT, a platform used by 11,000 banks in 200 different jurisdictions.
The signatories also pledged to enact “restrictive measures that will prevent the Russian Central Bank from deploying its international reserves in ways that undermine the impact of our sanctions.”
Another aspect of the plan includes “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.”
In a conference call with journalists, a senior US official speaking on condition of anonymity said that the steps would have an immediate impact on the Russian economy.
“We stand with the Ukrainian people in this dark hour. Even beyond the measures we are announcing today, we are prepared to take further measures to hold Russia to account for its attack on Ukraine,” the statement concluded.
Russia on Saturday stepped up its invasion of Ukraine after Moscow claimed that the Kyiv government had refused to hold talks.
“All units were given orders to develop the advance from all directions in accordance with the operation’s plans,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told a press conference.
Konashenkov added that separatist militias in Donetsk and Luhansk, supported by the Russian army, were advancing in the east.
The Kremlin accuses Kyiv of refusing to negotiate, but on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on the Ukrainian army to topple its own government, saying “it will be easier for us to agree with you than this gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis who have settled in Kyiv and are holding the entire Ukrainian people hostage.”
Kyiv dismissed Moscow’s invitation, accusing them of “trying to bring the negotiations to a dead end before they even start.”
Zelenskyy has rejected evacuation offers from the US and vowed to remain in the capital, saying Saturday that his country’s forces had “derailed” Moscow’s invasion plans.
According to Ukrainian authorities, Russian airborne forces landed at an airfield in the town of Vasilkov, less than 40 km (25 mi) from Kyiv, while media outlets reported that around 100 Russian armored vehicles were advancing toward the city from the north.
Local officials said that explosions heard in the capital were from a Russian attack on a thermal power plant in Troieshchyna. The CHP-6 combined heat and power plant is the largest in Ukraine.