Multiple major explosions near Kiev, oil depot on fire
Several large explosions were observed south of the Ukrainian capital Kiev last night, illuminating the sky, the AP reports. An oil depot in Vasylkiv, about 40 kilometers south of Kiev, is reportedly on fire.
Vasylkiv mayor Natalia Balasynovych said the oil depot was hit in a Russian missile attack on Saturday night. unverified images be of the fire seen on Twitter†
The office of President Volodymyr Zelensky also reports an explosion near Zhulyany airport. According to the BBC, there are also unconfirmed reports that a gas pipeline in the northeastern city of Kharkiv may have been hit. That city has been under fire since the beginning of the Russian attack.
Ukraine ‘grateful’ for new financial sanctions against Russia
Ukraine is grateful for the latest round of financial sanctions announced by the EU, the US and Western allies against Russia on Saturday night in response to the neighboring country’s invasion. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said this on Saturday night let them know via Twitter.
“Grateful to our friends for the commitment to remove multiple Russian banks from Swift,” the prime minister wrote, responding to Saturday night’s announcement that Western countries will ban a number of Russian banks from access to that crucial international payment system. Shmyhal also thanked the allies for “freezing the assets of Russia’s central bank.”
The measures will be introduced in the coming days, Western countries announced on Saturday evening in a joint statement† They said they were “ready to take further measures to hold Russia responsible for its attack on Ukraine.”
The moves are aimed at preventing Russian President Vladimir Putin from using the $630 billion (about 559 billion euros) the Russian central bank has in foreign exchange reserves to finance the invasion or to support the declining ruble.
According to a US official, the allies will draw up a list of banks that will be excluded from Swift. In addition, Russian banks that are already the target of European sanctions are the first to qualify, including the major banks Sberbank and VTB.
Russian banks lockout from Swift could lead to ‘serious shock’
The decision by western countries to exclude a number of Russian banks from the international payment system Swift is, according to observers, a crucial action that will hit Russia hard. Analysts also say the move could inflict a serious shock on global financial markets.
The European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada announced on Saturday evening that they would remove a number of Russian banks from Swift in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The aim is to “financially isolate Russia”, said Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it “a crucial move to exclude Russia from the global financial system”.
Swift, a global system for fast international payments, stands for ‘Society of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication’. Based in Brussels, the system is responsible for transactions worth thousands of billions of dollars a day, between more than eleven thousand banks and financial institutions around the world. Exclusion from the crucial payment system is a major handicap, because almost all banks are connected to it.
Comparison with Iran
Denying Russian banks access to Swift makes Russia’s imports and exports more difficult – if not impossible. Comparisons are made with Iran, which was previously banned from Swift for its nuclear activities, as part of sanctions that are crippling that country’s economy. However, the move will also affect Russia’s trading partners.
Western countries also considered excluding Russian banks from Swift in 2014, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, the AP reports. Russia then said the move would amount to a declaration of war. The allies declined. Russia has since tried to develop its own financial transaction system, with limited success.
According to Edward Moya, a market analyst at Oanada in New York, the move is likely to “deal a serious shock to global financial markets,” Reuters reports. “Many traders had become convinced that the US and Europe were not taking a hard line and that they were focused on protecting the economic situation.” According to him, the move will be “hard to digest” and will test the stock market recovery of the second half of last week.
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