Sanctions Loophole: SWIFT Exemption Europe Lets Itself Pay for Russian Gas

The logo of Russia's energy giant Gazprom is pictured at one of its petrol stations in Moscow on April 16, 2021. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

As the European Union looks to ban several banks from the SWIFT financial system, a bank linked to the sale of Russian gas is said to be exempt from the ban.

The European Union sanctions will affect several major Russian banks and cut them off from SWIFT, a Belgian-based financial telecommunication system that functions to allow financial transactions and payments to take place between banks across the globe.

However, at least two Russian banks will reportedly be exempt from the sanctions, including Gazprombank, the bank partially owned by Russia’s major energy corporation Gazprom, Bloomberg reports.

Gazprombank is said to be a “key bank for Russia’s energy conglomerates,” according to Bloomberg, which could exclude Russian energy from the proposed sanctions.

Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank that holds around half of the deposits in Russia and has over a hundred million customers and clients, is also exempt from the SWIFT ban.

The report comes after some European countries, including Germany, were initially hesitant about cutting Russian banks off from the SWIFT system due to their reliance on Russian energy and current energy reserves, such as natural gas, being at low levels.

Last month, a spokeswoman for the German ministry for the economy and climate admitted that the country’s gas reserves were at “worrying” levels. Germany imports around 55 per cent of its natural gas from Russia.

Russian gas shipments continue to Europe unabated, adding to the impression that European sanctions are extremely selective to what doesn’t cause inconvenience. Over 100 million cubic meters of gas was delivered from Russia on Wednesday, and a Gazprom spokesman said energy was being exported from Russia to Europe “as per normal”.

The exclusion of Gazprombank comes after Italy demanded that its luxury goods companies not be subject to another set of sanctions aimed at Russia last month.

Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi was able to get exemptions for luxury goods manufacturers, leading to criticism from one EU diplomat who commented, “Apparently selling Gucci loafers to oligarchs is more of a priority than hitting back at Putin.”

The Belgian government had also reportedly also been successful at gaining sanctions exemptions for its diamond industry.

The United Kingdom and the United States have both been firm advocates for sanctions against Russia, including the proposal to ban Russian banks from SWIFT.

“These measures demonstrate our determination to apply severe economic sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said earlier this week, commenting on proposed sanctions targetted against Russia’s central bank.

“We are announcing this action in rapid coordination with our US and European allies to move in lockstep once more with our international partners, to demonstrate our steadfast resolve in imposing the highest costs on Russia and to cut her off from the international financial system so long as this conflict persists,” Sunak added.


Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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