EU sanctions Russia's banks, blocks Russian media

EU sanctions Russia's banks, blocks Russian media
VTB, Russia's second-largest bank, has been the latest target of strict economic sanctions. Credit: Belga

The recent EU sanctions towards Russia were formalised by representatives of the 27 Member States and published in the EU's Official Journal on Wednesday. They include the exclusion of seven Russian banks from the SWIFT international financial messaging system and the banning of Russian media outlets Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik from the EU.

The SWIFT exclusion is intended to partially cut off the Russian economy from global finance. VTB, Russia's second-largest bank, is one of the main targets, as well as Bank Otkritie, Novikombank (industrial finance), Promsvyazbank, Rossiya Bank, Sovcombank and VEB (regime development bank).

These institutions "are the first to be affected by the financing of Moscow's war effort" in Ukraine, a senior EU official explained, claiming that about a quarter of the Russian banking system will be affected by these sanctions. The measure will be in effect from 12 March.

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However, two institutions linked to oil and gas sales have been spared: Sberbank, the country's largest bank, and Gazprombank, through which most of the payments for Russian oil and gas deliveries to the EU flow. Sberbank has not escaped unscathed, though – its shares have plummeted on the London Stock Exchange and are now worth nearly nothing.

In total, about 80% of the Russian banking system is targeted in one way or another by a number of EU financial sanctions, in addition to sanctions from countries such as Japan, the United States and even Switzerland. Some of these sanctions date back to 2014 following Russia's annexation of Crimea.

The texts published in the Official Journal also detail a ban on the broadcasting of Russian state media Sputnik and RT in the EU, both on television and online, accused of being "instruments of disinformation". This measure is to be implemented by each Member State via its media regulator and telecoms operators and is effective immediately.

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