US, Europe allies expel Russian banks from SWIFT in a dramatic escalation to isolate Putin

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The White House, along with the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and Canada, announced that they would expel certain Russian banks from SWIFT, the high-security network that connects thousands of financial institutions around the world, pledging to “collectively ensure that this war is a strategic failure for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin”, CNN reported.

“This will ensure that these banks are disconnected from the international financial system and harm their ability to operate globally,” they wrote in a joint statement released by the White House, also pledging “restrictive measures that will prevent the Russian Central Bank from deploying its international reserves in ways that undermine the impact of our sanctions,” and restricting the sale of “golden passports” that allow Russian oligarchs to avoid the brunt of sanctions already levied.

The US and European officials have also discussed targeting the Russian Central Bank with sanctions, according to two people familiar with the talks, a step without precedent for an economy of Russia’s size, CNN reported.

But the moves made for a dramatic escalation of the West’s attempts to isolate and punish Putin, and appeared to come together quickly over the past hours and days. At a press conference Thursday, Biden was pressed on why he had avoided removing Russia from SWIFT or sanctioning Putin personally. Less than 48 hours later, he’d done both.

Targeting the central bank would strike at the heart of Putin’s years-long efforts to insulate his economy from sanctions, CNN reported.

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