Russian authorities are promoting the international use of an alternative financial messaging system to the global Swift network in order to mitigate the risk of sanctions.

Earlier this week Russian lawmakers approved the use of the network beyond Russia's borders, building on talks held with China, India, Iran and Turkey.

"As the system has proved to be viable and efficient, it draws interest from both Russian and foreign players, it is proposed to give any legal entities, Russian and foreign, the possibility to use it," said Anatoly Aksakov, head of the Russian Banking Association and a member of a Russian parliamentary financial committee.

The proposed bill still needs to be ratified by president Vladimir Putin before becoming law but is a sign of the growing push to promote the financial messaging system as a viable alternative to the global Swift network.

These efforts have been driven by the threat of sanctions. It was back oin 2014 that the plans for an alternative financial messaging system were hatched when financial sanctions were imposed on Russia in the wake of its efforts to annex the Crimea.

This action raised fears that Russia could be omitted from the Swift network as was the case for Iran in 2012. Russia's central bank governor has admitted as much, as has Aksakov who said that the substitute system "obviously allows us to solve issues related to the sanctions pressure".

He also said that some 400 mostly Russian companies have so far expressed an interest in using the system while there is also growing interest from a number of countries in the Middle East.

Founded in 1973 and still run as a banking cooperative, Swift has remained as the global financial messaging network for international transactions. It is not the first time alternative payment systems have been developed. China established the Cross-border Interbank Payment System which launched in October 2015 as an alternative to Swift, although a memorandum of understanbding between the two systems was signed in May 2016.

Swift and its efforts to impose sanctions now potentially faces a much bigger threat from cryptocurrencies and the use of crypto exchanges. Back in January 2018 an advisor to Putin, Sergei Glazyev suggested that the development of a 'cryptoruble' could help to alleviate any pressure from sanctions.

Source: www.finextra.com

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