Western allies on Saturday agreed on a new volley of financial sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, including taking the key step of banishing a number of Russian banks from the SWIFT interbank system.
In a joint statement, the White House said the group of world powers were "resolved to continue imposing costs on Russia that will further isolate Russia from the international financial system and our economies."
Apart from a partial SWIFT ban, Western powers said they would move to limit Russia's central bank and also restrict sales of so-called 'golden passports' to wealthy Russian investors.
With Ukrainian forces resisting the Russian advance, Western officials say there is a genuine interest in ensuring President Vladimir Putin pays the maximum price for the invasion.
Chief among steps to do so was "ensuring that selected Russian banks are removed from the SWIFT messaging system," the White House said in the joint statement, which also included the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Canada.
SWIFT's messaging system allows banks to communicate rapidly and securely about transactions, and cutting Russia off would cripple its trade with most of the world.
The move comes after embattled Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday once again asked European nations to sever Russia from the SWIFT system.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the moves are intended to "cripple Putin's ability to finance his war machine."
Banks hit by the new measures are "all those already sanctioned by the international community, as well as other institutions, if necessary," said the German government's spokesman in a statement.
"This is intended to cut off these institutions from international financial flows, which will massively restrict their global operations," he added.
The allies also agreed to impose restrictive measures to prevent the Russian central bank "from deploying its international reserves in ways that undermine the impact of our sanctions," the joint statement said.
These are estimated to be over $600 billion and are the vast windfall of Russia's immense energy wealth.
"This will freeze its transactions. And it will make it impossible for the Central Bank to liquidate its assets," Von der Leyen said.
A US official said the move on Russia's central bank meant Moscow "can't support the ruble" and that the measures would make the country "a global economic and financial pariah."
Limiting golden passport sales
Wealthy Russians connected to Putin's government will also no longer be allowed to use the so-called golden passport system to obtain European citizenship for themselves and their family members.
Malta is among countries that sells citizenship to such investors. Prime Minister Robert Abela has so far avoided saying whether Malta will move to block Russian applicants to the country's citizenship-by-investment programme, despite growing pressure from Brussels to do so.
It remains unclear how the new measures will be implemented, with Von der Leyen saying EU leaders could request amendments to minimise the effect of the measures on their economies.
A working group will be set up between the United States and the EU to ensure "the effective implementation of our financial sanctions by identifying and freezing the assets of sanctioned individuals and companies that exist within our jurisdictions," the joint statement added.
The group said it planned to additionally coordinate against disinformation and other forms of "hybrid warfare."
The Kremlin has so far brushed off sanctions already imposed by Western powers, including those targeting Putin personally, as a sign of Western impotence.
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