news

Feb. 27, 2022

OWN CORRESPONDENT

15 min read

U.S., Europe cut some Russian banks from SWIFT

U.S., Europe cut some Russian banks from SWIFT

Russians soldiers on Ukrainian land

Story highlights

  • The nations also said they would act together to impose restrictive measures against Russia banks
  • Germany set aside restraint on arms exports to war zones

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WESTERN nations agreed to exclude some Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system, used for trillions of dollars worth of transactions between banks around the world, further isolating Russia’s economy and financial system.

The nations also said they would act together to impose “restrictive measures that will prevent the Russian Central Bank from deploying its international reserves in ways that undermine the impact of our sanctions.” 

Germany set aside restraint on arms exports to war zones and said it will supply Ukraine with battlefield weapons, including Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. It is also moving to close its airspace to Russian aircraft. 

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy posted another video of himself in Kyiv as Ukrainian forces engaged in street battles in the capital against Russian troops on the third day of an invasion ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin. “We won’t give up any arms. We will defend our country,” he said.

Kyiv Still Under Ukrainian Control (6:37 a.m.)

The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, said that as of early Sunday morning the city is still fully controlled by the Ukrainian army. 

Meantime, the Kyiv regional governor’s office said that a fire at a petrol storage facility in Vasylkiv, south-west of Kyiv continues to burn. The facility was hit by a missile during fighting for a nearby airfield. The fire is visible from Kyiv, 37 kilometers (23 miles) away. 

Neither report could be independently verified.  

Canada Looks for Ways to Pull Plug on Russia State TV (6:20 a.m.)

Canada’s minister responsible for broadcasting said the government was investigating “all options” for getting a state-owned Russian TV network off the nation’s airwaves amid rising anger over the invasion of Ukraine. 

“I share the concerns of many Canadians about the presence of Russia Today in our broadcasting system,” Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said Saturday on Twitter. “We’re looking at all options.” 

The three largest telecommunications companies all offer RT to their television subscribers, according to their websites. Spokespeople for those companies -- Rogers Communications Inc., Telus Corp. and BCE Inc. -- did not immediately respond to requests for comment outside of regular business hours.

North Korea Resumes Missile Tests (6:20 a.m.)

North Korea followed up January’s record barrage of missile tests with the firing of a suspected longer-range ballistic rocket Sunday, ramping up tensions as global attention is focused on Ukraine.

North Korea often times its provocations for political purposes. The latest launch comes less than two weeks before South Korea holds a presidential election and as the Biden administration is tied up with one of its greatest international challenges -- the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Kim Jong Un’s regime last fired a ballistic missile on Jan. 30, culminating its biggest monthly series of rocket tests since he took power a decade ago. Pyongyang then held off on missile tests while its neighbor and biggest benefactor, China, hosted the Beijing Olympics.

SWIFT Preparing to Comply With Russian Measures (3:31 a.m.) 

SWIFT, based in Belgium, said that while it is a neutral global cooperative with members in 200 countries, it is obliged to comply with EU and Belgian regulations. 

 “We are engaging with European authorities to understand the details of the entities that will be subject to the new measures,” the organization said in an email. “We are preparing to comply upon legal instruction.” 

Musk Activates Starlink Satellites for Ukraine (2:12 a.m.)

Elon Musk said his Starlink satellite service is up and running in Ukraine, responding to a plea from the deputy prime minister to supply satellite-based communications to help resist Russia’s invasion of the country. 

More Starlink terminals are en route, Musk tweeted Saturday in reply to Mykhailo Fedorov’s entreaty, without explaining how the equipment would get there.

Some Russian Banks Cut From SWIFT (1 a.m.)

Western nations agreed to unleash new sanctions to further isolate Russia’s economy and financial system after initial penalties failed to persuade President Vladimir Putin to pull out of Ukraine. 

A decision by Western nations to exclude some Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system, used for trillions of dollars worth of transactions between banks around the world, was announced in a joint statement Saturday. 

The move is aimed at Russian banks that have already been sanctioned by the international community, but can be expanded to other Russian banks if necessary, according to a spokesman for the German government. 

In addition, the nations said they would act together to impose “restrictive measures that will prevent the Russian Central Bank from deploying its international reserves in ways that undermine the impact of our sanctions.” 

More penalties against the bank could come this weekend, according to a U.S. official. Russia has about $640 billion in reserves. 

Germany to Ban Russian Flights; EU May Follow (10:42 p.m.)

Germany is preparing to close its airspace to Russian carriers, the country’s transport ministry said, while a separate report from ARD said the entire EU may follow, citing sources. 

Russia Government-Services Site Hit With Cyberattack, Tass Says (10:14 p.m.)

Russia’s main government-services website came under a DDOS attack of unprecedented scale, the Digital Ministry said Saturday, according to Tass. The attacks were repulsed and service restored, it said.

A number of official and state-company websites appeared to be suffering disruptions Saturday as international hacker groups threatened to target Russian sites over the Ukraine invasion.

Abramovich Hands Over ‘Stewardship’ of Chelsea (8:03 p.m.)

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich said he would hand over the “stewardship and care” of his Chelsea Football Club to the organization’s charitable foundation. He didn’t indicate that he was open to selling the team. 

“During my nearly 20-year ownership of Chelsea FC, I have always viewed my role as a custodian of the Club, whose job it is ensuring that we are as successful as we can be today, as well as build for the future, while also playing a positive role in our communities,” Abramovich said in a statement. “I remain committed to these values. That is why I am today giving trustees of Chelsea’s charitable Foundation the stewardship and care of Chelsea FC.” 

With pressure on Russia’s wealthiest citizens growing over the Ukraine invasion, sports investors and private equity firms have begun to draw up potential takeover offers for the London team, people familiar with the matter said. Abramovich has a net worth of about $13 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. 

Germany to Send Stingers, Anti-Tank Weapons (7 p.m.)

Germany’s government will provide 500 Stinger surface-to-air missiles and 1,000 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine “as quickly as possible,” signaling a further shift in its traditional restraint on weapons exports.

The weapons will come from German armed forces stockpiles, government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said in a statement.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine marks a turning point,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in the statement. “It threatens our entire postwar order. In this situation, it is our duty to do our best to help Ukraine defend itself against Vladimir Putin’s invading army.” 

Earlier, Scholz’s government said it was allowing the transfer of other German armaments via the Netherlands and Estonia.  

Pentagon Cites Resistance to Russia (4:35 p.m.)

Ukraine so far appears to have prevented Russia from achieving air dominance inside the country and it continues to face resistance from Ukrainian aircraft and missile defenses, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters Saturday morning.

The Russian military faces stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces across the country, especially in the north, where Russian troops are now within approximately 30 kilometers (19 miles) of the capital, Kyiv, the person said. Russia has yet to take control of any major cities, the person added.

U.S. military assistance has continued to flow to Ukraine in the last couple of days, the person said, even as the country’s airspace has become contested. 

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KLM Diverts Flights to Moscow, St. Petersburg (4:10 p.m.)

KLM flights from Amsterdam to Moscow and St Petersburg were seen turning back on plane-tracking website FlightRadar24. KL903 which was due to land in Moscow at 5 p.m. local time turned back just before it reached Moscow and was diverting to Copenhagen, FlightRadar24 showed. KL1395 that was due to land in St. Petersburg at 5:35 p.m. turned back over Estonia, the website showed.

Turkey Denies Closing Black Sea to Russian Warships (3:40 p.m.)

A senior Turkish official with direct knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg News that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t tell Zelenskiy on Saturday that Turkey is closing or has shut the Black Sea for Russian warship access.

Zelenskiy posted on his Twitter account that Erdogan told him on a call on Saturday that Turkey would ban passage of the ships. Turkish officials have called for an end to the conflict in Ukraine and have offered to mediate the crisis.

France Intercepts Russian Cargo Ship (3:25 p.m.)

French authorities say a navy patrol intercepted a cargo ship sailing in the English Channel under the Russian flag, the Associated Press reported.

The interception of the ship, carrying cars, early Saturday was triggered by financial sanctions levied against Russia for its invasion of the Ukraine. Maritime spokesperson Veronique Magnin said it appeared to be the first such action in the English Channel under the days-old sanctions regime.

Medvedev Sees ‘Good Opportunity’ to Reinstate Death Penalty (2:50 p.m.)

Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president who oversaw a brief liberalization after Putin’s first two terms, wrote on Facebook today that his country’s suspension from the Council of Europe offered a “good opportunity” to end a moratorium on capital punishment.

Medvedev, who holds a special post Putin created for him as deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, also called for foreigners’ assets to be seized in Russia in response to sanctions against Russians abroad. 

The “monstrous” limitations being imposed against Russia won’t have any effect on Russia’s resolve to continue “conducting the military operation to protect Donbas,” Medvedev wrote.

Kremlin Says Ukraine Refused Talks, Military Operations Resume (1:50 p.m.)

Russia has resumed military operations in Ukraine after Kyiv refused to conduct negotiations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on a conference call. 

Peskov said President Vladimir Putin had ordered Russian troops to stop their advance Friday as the two sides discussed the possibility of negotiations, but had failed to reach agreement on a format or location. 

EU NATO Members Donate More Weapons to Ukraine (1:41 p.m.)

The Netherlands will send 200 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine as soon as possible, the Dutch government said in a statement. Belgium has also agreed to send fuel and 2,000 small arms to Ukraine, according to Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. 

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The Czech Republic will send machine guns, sniper rifles, handguns and ammunition worth about $9 million, Defense Minister Jana Cernochova said. Last month the Czechs agreed to send 4,000 artillery shells. Slovakia will send artillery shells and fuel, Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad told journalists. Germany said it would deploy troops to fellow NATO member Slovakia to set up a Patriot anti-aircraft missile system on its territory.

EU Energy Ministers Plan to Meet Monday (1:25 p.m.)

EU energy ministers will convene Monday in Paris for an extraordinary meeting following “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” the French ministry of ecological transition said in a statement. France currently holds the EU’s presidency.  

Russian Warns Media Against Showing Civilian Casualties (9:39 a.m.) 

Russia’s media regulator ordered 10 mostly independent news outlets to remove reports of alleged civilian casualties and attacks on cities by Moscow’s forces in Ukraine, as the Kremlin seeks to control the narrative at home about its invasion.

The regulator alleged the reports contained “inaccurate information about shelling of Ukrainian cities and the deaths of civilians as a result of the actions of Russian forces,” and warned that access to the media outlets would be restricted if the material wasn’t removed.

Russian authorities have banned anything but the use of official information about the war. Moscow denies its forces are targeting civilians and cities, despite video and photo evidence from Ukraine. Amnesty International monitors accused Russia of indiscriminate attacks on hospitals and other targets banned under the laws of war.

Hungary Offers Budapest for Russia-Ukraine Talks (9:23 a.m.) 

Hungary has offered its capital, Budapest, as a potential site for talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Facebook.

Szijjarto said he made the offer to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, and Ukrainian presidential adviser Andriy Yermak. 

“Budapest could be secure for both the Russian and Ukrainian delegations,” Szijjarto said. “Neither of them said no outright.”

EU Home Affairs Ministers to Hold Emergency Meeting (9:08 a.m.) 

The EU’s 27 home affairs ministers will hold an extraordinary gathering on Sunday to discuss humanitarian support for Ukraine and the refugee situation. They’ll also talk about how to manage the bloc’s external borders and related security issues. 

United Nations agencies forecast as many as 4 million refugees will flee Ukraine to neighboring countries if the Russian invasion continues.

Poland Border Guard figures showed that 47,500 people arrived from Ukraine on Friday, about five times the daily average from last year. Some 10,000 crossed back into Ukraine.  

Russian Bank VTB’s London Foothold Hit by Sanctions (8:22 a.m.)

The sanctions leveled by the U.K. against Russia’s second-largest bank took an immediate toll this week, potentially dealing a knockout blow to its slowly fading plans to be a major player in the City of London.

The London Stock Exchange suspended VTB’s membership on Friday, meaning it can no longer trade there. The bank has also lost access to the London Bullion Market Association, where it traded precious metals along with its Russian peer, Sovcombank.

VTB’s London decline has been under way for years, as the bank shifted more of its operations to Frankfurt and Zug, Switzerland. Now other lenders are racing to cut ties with VTB after the U.K. Treasury froze its assets, and some competitors have urged British officials to issue a wind-up order so they can unravel their ties with the Russian bank.  Bloomberg

 

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