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Russia says working on alternative to SWIFT, but disconnection not imminent

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russia says a ‘hypothetical’ SWIFT disconnection is a ‘political measure’.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has ruled out any imminent plan to disconnect his country from the SWIFT interbank payment system, warning that such as move would affect all parties.

"There is no visible danger of us getting disconnected from SWIFT. I think that the hypothetical disconnection is not a market measure, but a purely political measure. Right now no one is ready for it, everyone will only lose from this," Dmitry Birichevsky, the head of the ministry’s Department of Economic Cooperation (DEC), told Sputnik.

He noted that Russia is working on an alternative to the SWIFT system, but stressed that it is a long-term process.

"I think that this work will continue for a very long time, and there is no such goal to complete it as soon as possible," Birichevsky said. “This is a constant regular work within the framework of the policy to strengthen our financial independence, independence of payment.”

In May, the first deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia, Olga Skorobogatova, said in case Russia were disconnected from the SWIFT system, the bank would transfer internal Russian traffic to the Financial Messaging System of the Bank of Russia (SPFS).

The statement came as the European Parliament on April 29 passed a resolution calling for Russia’s expulsion from the SWIFT system over the case of Western-backed blogger Alexei Navalny.

Navalny was detained on arrival in Moscow on January 17 from Germany where he was airlifted for treatment for alleged poisoning shortly after he collapsed during a domestic Russian flight in August last year.

Western governments have accused Russia of poisoning Navalny and imposed sanctions against senior Russian officials over the matter, which Moscow says is internal. Moscow has denied involvement in any attack on Navalny.

The European Parliament first called for Russia's expulsion from the SWIFT system in 2014 after the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea rejoined Russia following a referendum that year. 

SWIFT has a virtual monopoly as the switchboard of the international financial system. A rising number of countries, including China, Iran and Russia, has recently been questioning whether SWIFT is merely a political tool of the West.

As a result, there are increasing efforts, including by some US allies, to limit the West's unilateral leverage in the financial sphere by inventing alternative networks and means to avoid sanctions.


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