Ukraine’s besieged leaders are demanding that Russia be expelled from SWIFT, the ubiquitous payment system that links banks around the world. “Everyone who now doubts whether Russia should be banned from SWIFT has to understand that the blood of innocent Ukrainian men, women, and children will be on their hands too,” Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukraine foreign minister, tweeted Thursday as Russian forces continued their invasion of his country.
SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, facilitates millions of daily payments among 11,000 financial institutions in more than 200 countries and territories. Terminating Russia’s access to SWIFT is “the nuclear option, economically, in terms of sanctions,” says Mai’a Cross, the Edward W. Brooke Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at Northeastern.
After days of international debate, the White House announced Saturday that some Russian banks will be disconnected from SWIFT. The European Union will finalize which banks will lose access, as SWIFT is based in Belgium.