Ukraine invasion: West must ensure sanctions don’t inadvertently entrench Putin deeper into power | World News

Sanctions are always controversial. And no matter how targeted they are meant to be, they always end up causing collateral damage.

So are these aimed at the Putin government any different?

Europe seems near to agreeing to block a number of Russian banks out of the SWIFT network.

So what is it?

SWIFT is a global financial messaging system – used by 11,000 institutions in over 200 countries and territories. It lets banks from different countries communicate with each other using standardised secure codes.

Follow live updates: Satellite images show large convoy of Russian forces moving toward Kyiv

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Russian President Vladimir Putin meets senior military officials

Allowing rapid cross border transactions from one business to another, being blocked will be painful for Russia’s economy. Just ask the Iranians, who have been blocked from Swift for years now.

There is a different between Russia and Iran, though. Not all of Russia’s banking system will be excluded, it seems currently.

But financial technology expert Professor Markos Zachariadis told Sky News, Russia will feel the pain.

“You can imagine being cut off from the internet – there will not be communication with the outside world in terms of financial transactions.

“Any bank that is part of this will not be able to communicate or access their assets in other banks, corresponding banks around the world. Like, for example, the central bank won’t have access to its deposits and assets in diff parts of the globe.”

Key developments in the Ukraine crisis:

• Putin orders nuclear deterrent forces to be put on high alert
• Zelenskyy: Ukraine and Russia to hold talks at Belarus border
• Ukraine claims control of key city Kharkiv after fierce clashes

Foreign secretary warns conflict could last ‘years’
• BP to offload its stake in state-owned Russian oil giant Rosneft

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EU and allies agree to cut Russia from SWIFT

But do the sanctions go far enough?

Not for critics like opposition politician Vladimir Kara Murza.

He told Sky News, Britain in particular could do more and must target Putin and his elite more effectively.

“The term Londongrad didn’t come out of nowhere and for so many years the British financial system, the British banking system, has been used by Putin’s kleptocrats to launder the money they have been stealing from the people of Russia.

“It is high time for that to stop.”

Kara Murza was in Moscow remembering a friend, laying flowers on the site opposition politician and Putin critic Boris Nemtzov was assassinated outside the Kremlin seven years ago to the day.

Mr Nemtsov had argued for a very different Russia, one with a flourishing free market economy and open society.

The logo of VTB bank is seen at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, June 3, 2021. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina
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VTB is Russia’s second largest lender

The security men, officials, and friends who are in Russian president’s inner circle

Instead, we have an increasingly oppressive dictatorship invading its neighbour and facing punishing sanctions for it.

In Moscow, Russians were out enjoying the winter sun.

The war being fought in their name seemed a million miles away. Some told Sky News they were worried about the war and the sanctions, but none of them said they would be trying to take their money out of the banks.

They all said they were confident the Russian government would absorb any economic shock.

It might well do, but not in the way they have in mind.

Repressive regimes have a way of shifting the pain onto ordinary people and away from them. Ask Venezuelans or Iranians.

Russian observers fear just the same will happen here because the Putin regime has seen these sanctions coming.

One told Sky News: “I’m afraid that they prepared. I’m afraid that sanctions would turn Russian into a huge North Korea, I’m afraid that all the sanction that would happen would be turned against the people. I don’t think that the political elite and Putin will suffer. They are ready for that, and that’s their interest.”

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Putin has already told Russia sanctions are further evidence the outside world is against them. He may well believe that himself, deepening his paranoia. They allow him to blame the west for Russia’s problems.

For two decades, Mr Putin’s rule has benefited the rich more than the poor.

Today, Moscow’s streets were full of luxury vehicles ferrying the rich and pampered, weaving their way round police buses racing to stamp out the first sign of protest.

The West’s challenge is making sure it does not inadvertently help entrench Mr Putin and his cosseted elite even deeper in power.

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