Russia says ready to leave SWIFT, plans to join Iran’s Sepam
Russia says it is preparing to leave US-dominated international payment system SWIFT and pairing with alternative systems, including Iran’s electronic financial messaging platform Sepam.
The decision announced by Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova comes in the wake of a resolution passed recently by the European Parliament calling for Russia's expulsion from the SWIFT financial network.
In an interview with RT television network, Zakharova said while Russian authorities still assess the likelihood of being cut from the Western payment system, they are already working to reduce risks and possible damage.
“So, as an alternative to SWIFT, the system of transferring financial communications of the Bank of Russia is considered,” she said.
Iran unveiled Sepam in October 2013, suggesting that members of the Asian Clearing Union (ACU) employ a home-grown system developed by the Central Bank of Iran to get around SWIFT.
The ACU, headquartered in Tehran, was established at the initiative of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in 1974. Its members include Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Iran.
Russia's possible withdrawal from SWIFT has accelerated in recent weeks amid rising diplomatic tensions between Moscow and the West.
In her interview with RT over the weekend, Zakharova said Russia is working to cut Western influence out of its economy.
She said the new restrictive measures are "having a complex negative impact on both Russian and Western economies".
According to Zakharova, the price of playing out hostilities through the financial markets is high, and "estimates of the damage vary, but are well within the hundreds of billions of dollars".
"Unfortunately, the reality of our time has been the increased use of politically motivated unilateral measures by some Western states, mainly the US,” she said.
One reason, she said, is that Washington and its allies "seem to find it difficult to accept the obvious successes of the Russian economy, the increase in its international competitiveness and the expansion of the presence of quality Russian goods and services on world markets".