UPDATED: Greece and Cyprus to back EU line on Russia sanctions, including on SWIFT

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Greece will support any European Union line on sanctions against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, including measures to cut off Moscow from the global SWIFT payments system, a senior government official told Reuters on Saturday.

“Greece will support the EU’s line on sanctions, including on SWIFT,” the officials said, declining to be named.

SWIFT is a secure messaging system facilitating rapid cross-border payments and the main mechanism financing international trade.

Such a move, if taken, would mark a further escalation of concerted sanctions by the West against Russia and would make it harder for Russian companies to do business.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Saturday, saying Greece had favoured the harshest EU sanctions against Russia after its attack and stood ready to provide assistance. 

Cyprus has not opposed proposals to cut Russia off from the SWIFT global payment system, Cypriot Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides said on Saturday.

“In the name of EU unity and solidarity to Ukrainian people Cyprus has NOT objected to ANY EU sanctions including cutting Russia off Swift,” Petrides said in a Twitter post.

He was responding to some speculation that Cyprus, which has extensive business links with both Russia and Ukraine, was among countries with reservations about quickly ejecting Moscow from SWIFT.

“Everything is on the table,” Petrides tweeted.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Saturday French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had supported cutting off Russia from the global SWIFT payment system in a phone conversation with him.

France was also ready to supply weapons and military equipment to Ukraine, Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi had supported Russia’s disconnection from the global SWIFT payment system in a phone conversation with him.

“This is the beginning of a new page in the history of our states,” Zelenskiy wrote on his Twitter.

A decision to cut Russia off from the global SWIFT payment system will be taken in a matter of days, the governor of a central bank within the euro zone told Reuters on Saturday.

“SWIFT is just a matter of time, very short time, days,” the central bank governor, who asked not to be named, said.

“Is it sufficient? No. Is it necessary? Absolutely. Sanctions only make sense if there are costs for both sides and this will be costly,” the central banker added.

Western partners are moving closer to halting Russia’s access to the SWIFT global interbank payments system, Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said on Saturday.

“Our goal is that the decision is taken as early as possible. I cannot give a particular date. From what I’m hearing it seems that there is no strong opposition left,” Simonyte told a news conference in Vilnius.

Canada, the United States, Britain and the European Union on Friday said they could act to exclude Russia from SWIFT in a further round of sanctions aimed at halting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Photo – People attend a torchlight procession in solidarity with the Ukrainian people at the Colosseum, in Rome, Italy, on Saturday evening. EPA-EFE/GIUSEPPE LAMI

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