Amid reports of the seriously outmatched Ukrainian military putting up stiffer resistance than Russian President Vladimir Putin may have expected, Ukraine continues to be pounded by air, land and sea as a sense of desperation takes hold in the country.
In many ways, the Ukrainian people were stunned by the Russian invasion, believing Putin was using a military build-up on their border as a means of political intimidation and that he’d never follow through with an actual military campaign. With Russian forces closing in on the capital city of Kyiv, that initial shock is giving way to the harsh realities of war.
Ukrainian lawmaker Halyna Yanchenko appeared on CBS News on Thursday and issued a tearful plea to the world, “I beg you please save our people.”
“Children were murdered today because the world was not serious about Putin, the world was not serious about sanctions on time,” Yanchenko said, before adding that there are two critical steps that can be taken to help quell the invasion.
“If you block Russia from SWIFT, it will really help because then Russian citizens will come out into the streets and ask Putin, what is he doing not only with the Ukraine, but with their own country,” she said. “He’s killing and he’s ruining lives, not only Ukrainians — he’s murdering Ukrainians literally, but he’s also ruining lives of his country, and his citizens. So I beg American politicians to block Russia from SWIFT now. Please save Ukrainian men, women, and children.”
Overcome with emotion, Yanchenko cried out through tears, “Please save the Ukrainian men, women and children … I beg you, please save our people, dozens and maybe hundreds of people of mine are being murdered tonight.”
“I beg American politicians to block Russia from SWIFT now. Please save Ukrainian men, women, and children.” Ukraine parliament member breaks down in CBS interview. “I beg you, please save our people.” https://t.co/6GENY5eS8V via @mediaite @AlexGriffing pic.twitter.com/jWOzunTjOv
— Caleb Howe (@CalebHowe) February 24, 2022
The lawmaker added that the world is taking “too much time to think over what to do” in response to Putin’s aggression.
The world has widely condemned the unprovoked attack and President Joe Biden joined with Western leaders to initiate sanctions against Russia in an attempt to isolate Putin, but Biden has refused to employ the most severe sanctions at his disposal, which includes targeting Russian oil and gas flows and cutting Moscow off from the SWIFT banking system.
SWIFT stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. The cooperative, which is overseen by the National Bank of Belgium, facilitates financial transactions and money transfers between more than 11,000 financial institutions in more than 200 countries around the world, according to the New York Post.
“Without access to SWIFT, Russia and its financial institutions would be effectively cut off from most international business transactions,” the Post reported. “For example, Russia would be unable to secure profits from international sales of its oil and gas production — deals that comprise more than 40% of the country’s revenue.”
But there are concerns over the “spillover effects” of such a move, as the paper pointed out that “a SWIFT cutoff could have far-reaching consequences for the global economy — such as limiting access to fuel supplies during an ongoing energy crisis. Some experts have raised concerns that a cutoff could result in the formation of a rival global payments systems.”
At the same time, the foreign ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the three Baltic states in the region that some fear Putin may target next, are also calling for Russia to be cut off from the banking system.
“All of us in the whole international community need to condemn it in a strongest possible way, to impose strongest possible sanctions on Russia, including disengaging Russia from SWIFT, isolating it politically and be firm in our support to the sovereignty, territorial integrity of independent Ukraine,” the foreign ministers said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, Biden claims the steps already taken “exceed” that move.
“The sanctions we’ve imposed exceed SWIFT. The sanctions we’ve imposed exceed anything that’s ever been done,” he said Thursday from the White House. “The sanctions we’ve imposed have generated two-thirds of the world joining us. They are profound sanctions.”
“Let’s have a conversation in another month or so to see if they’re working,” the president added.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., took to Twitter on Thursday to call on Biden to remove Russia from SWIFT:
We pray for the people of Ukraine as they defend against Putin’s attempt to rebuild the old Soviet Union. Biden must stand up to Putin and immediately levy severe sanctions against Russia — starting with removal from the SWIFT banking system.
The USA stands with Ukraine. 🇺🇸 🇺🇦
— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) February 24, 2022
Foreign policy expert Walid Phares appeared on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” on Thursday to say there is a “major financial game” between Russia and other countries impacting a decision to cut Russia off from the SWIFT banking system.
“The Russian leadership, in order to conduct this operation in Ukraine, did an analysis and realized through this analysis that this administration is not willing to confront them on the strategic level. Just to mention a very important point, there is a major financial game between Germany, other European countries and Russia, and we are partnering with both,” Phares explained. “We … this administration, Germany and Russia are part of what — the Iran deal. And the Iran deal is not just about $40 billion, but $150 billion and even more than that.”
“So the calculations in Moscow are since you are sitting at the same table with these partners, including our administration and the Biden administration is so much dead-set on going back to the deal,” he continued. “Therefore, their calculation is that we’re not going to confront them. But there’s a second reason. They saw what we’ve done in Afghanistan, that we withdraw from Afghanistan and we cut a deal with the Taliban leadership, and that in the eyes and the mind of Putin or the Russian leadership means that we’re not ready. This administration is not ready to confront them and Ukraine as well.”
Phares suggested the world was not prepared for Putin’s aggression because of their shared financial interests.
“This all indicates that this administration and its partners, the Western partners and probably India, were not ready for what Russia has done, and they were not ready because they didn’t even calculate that Russia could do so,” he said. “There is a reason behind that, and I go back to my first point. There are financial interests worldwide that were put together through the Iran deal, through the trade between Europe and Russia, through the energy issue. Nobody thought that Putin is going to do it and calculate exactly that we’re not going to react the way we should.”
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