MOSCOW Aug 27 Russian officials have drawn up a
law that would create a local equivalent of the interbank
payment system SWIFT, Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Moiseev
said on Wednesday in comments cited by Russian news agencies.
The draft law appears to be a response to concerns that
Belgium-based SWIFT, the world's biggest electronic payments
system, could become a tool for further Western sanctions
targeting Russia's financial sector over the Ukraine crisis.
In 2012, SWIFT cut off Iranian banks that were the subject
of European Union sanctions over Iran's nuclear programme - a
step that shut down a major avenue through which Tehran did
business with the rest of the world.
"We have a law prepared which will oblige transfers for
internal Russian transactions within the framework of a Russian
system," Interfax news agency quoted Moiseev as saying.
Moiseev added that, although the law had been drafted, it
would not become policy until it was clear that the central bank
had the technology to enable processing of interbank
transactions within Russia.
The plans to develop an alternative to SWIFT follow steps to
create a national payment system for processing credit card
transactions, after Visa and Mastercard stopped
providing services for some Russian banks that were subject to
Russian newspaper Kommersant reported last week that the
central bank had sent a letter to banks asking them to consider
alternative mechanisms for inter-bank payments, citing national
The paper said only about 5-10 percent of payments involving
Russian banks are presently made inside Russia, suggesting it
would not be easy to create a domestic alternative to rival
In April, Moiseev said changes to the law would require
SWIFT to establish a subsidiary in Russia that would be
regulated by the Russian central bank, copying the approach
adopted towards the card processors Visa and Mastercard.
Western countries have imposed sanctions targeting key
sectors of the Russian economy over Moscow's role in Ukraine,
where pro-Russian separatists are battling Kiev's forces. Russia
has retaliated by banning imports of Western food products.
(Reporting by Alexei Kalmykov and Jason Bush; Editing by Gareth