Russian PM vows ‘unrestricted’ response if banned from SWIFT payment system

Russia’s response to a possible cut-off from the SWIFT international banking payment system will be “unrestricted,” Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev vowed. The West is pushing for hitting Moscow with more sanctions as the Ukraine crisis deteriorates.

"We will see what happens, but of course if such decisions are made, I want to note that our economic reaction and generally any other reaction will be unrestricted," the Russian prime minister said on Tuesday, calling on the government to “work out concrete decisions which would help our economy in those conditions.”

READ MORE: S&P downgrade ‘groundlessly pessimistic’ – Russian finance minister

Calls to disconnect Russian banks from the global interbank SWIFT system came amid the deterioration of relations between Russia and the West, and the introduction of sanctions in response to Moscow’s alleged role in the Ukraine conflict.

Thus, last August the UK proposed to exclude Russia from the SWIFT system as a part of sanctions imposed on the country due to the situation in eastern Ukraine.

However, SWIFT has said it does not intend to switch Russia off from the system, adding that a number of countries have pressured it to do so. It has insisted it is not joining the anti-Russian sanctions.

In October, Belgium-based SWIFT stressed it has “no authority to make sanctions decisions.”

At the end of last year, Andrey Kostin – the head of VTB Russia's second largest bank – warned that in his “personal opinion,” excluding Russia from the global SWIFT banking transaction system is another form of sanctions and would mean “war.”

Back in December, Russia's Central Bank launched a new SWIFT-style payment service aimed at moving away from Western financial dominance.

READ MORE: CBR launches SWIFT alternative for domestic payments

The possibility of cutting Russia out of SWIFT, as well as a list of other anti-Russia measures, will be on the table during a meeting of EU foreign ministers on January 29. To be imposed, the new sanctions must be approved by all 28 EU countries.

SWIFT provides a network that enables financial institutions to send and receive information about financial transactions in a secure, standardized, and reliable way. SWIFT is a cooperative society under Belgian law and is owned by its member financial institutions. It has offices around the world. The system is comprised of over 10,000 financial organizations from 210 countries.

‘Political’ downgrade

Speaking of the recent developments in Russia’s economy, the prime minister has called S&P’s downgrade of Russia’s credit rating a “political decision.”

“What is it if not a political decision?” he questioned. “We will of course go through this, but it is bad that in a whole it complicates the situation in the country and, honestly speaking, in the world,” Medvedev said.

Also on Tuesday, the prime minister signed a decree containing the main points of the government’s anti-crisis plan, press secretary Natalia Timakova said. The document will be published on Wednesday, when Medvedev plans to discuss details with regional leaders and members of the United Russia party.