BRUSSELS: The EU on Wednesday excluded seven Russian banks from the global SWIFT network, as sanctions were ratcheted up over Moscow's war on Ukraine.
The banks immediately cut out from the secure interbank messaging network that permits transactions are Russia's second-biggest lender VTB Bank as well as Bank Otkritie, Novikombank, Promsvyazbank, Rossiya Bank, Sovcombank and VEB (Vnesheconombank), according to an official EU publication.
Their listing was the latest package of coordinated Western punishment of Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, now in its seventh day.
"At the speed of light, the European Union has adopted three waves of heavy sanctions against Russia's financial system, its high-tech industries and its corrupt elite," European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.
"This is the largest sanctions package in our Union's history. Today's decision to disconnect key Russian banks from the SWIFT network will send yet another very clear signal to Putin and the Kremlin."
The list did not name two major Russian banks, Sberbank and Gazprombank, which were left connected to SWIFT to allow EU countries to pay for Russian gas and oil deliveries.
But a senior EU official said the list would be kept "continuously under review".
He added that, with cumulative earlier sanctions by G7 partners, "slightly more than 80% of the (Russian) banking system is subject to some sanctions".
These included the SWIFT ban, asset freezes and financing sanctions imposed by the EU, the United States and Britain.
The official said Switzerland -- a major financial hub that is not in the EU -- has indicated it would follow suit with all the bloc's measures.
The official added that the EU is also barring any new EU investment in the Russian Direct Investment Fund, and prohibiting the supply of euro banknotes to anyone in Russia -- except for personal use or some diplomatic reasons -- to prevent circumvention of the SWIFT ban.
He also said that, inevitably, cutting some Russian banks out of the SWIFT system which permits fast and secure crossborder transactions, will "impact" the EU and Western countries, but "that is understood and that is accepted".