Three Belarus Banks Cut Off From SWIFT, Move To Russia’s SPFS
Three Belarusian banks – Belagroprombank, Bank Dabrabyt, and the Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus – have been disconnected from SWIFT. Belarus was hit by Western sanctions after Russia’s military operation in Ukraine began.
However, sanctioned Belarusian banks cut off from SWIFT will soon switch to other systems, according to Belarusian Finance Minister Yury Seliverstov. “Of course, this is unpleasant, because everyone is accustomed to the established patterns of interaction and exchange of financial information. But this is not the only system in the world. Of course, it was convenient to use it. But in relations with Russia, we have channels and opportunities to use the Russian system, we have this and it works quite well. There is a Chinese system. I think that in the near future banks will be change over to those systems,” he stated.
The bank serves as a Government Agent on servicing state programs, and has over 40,000 corporate clients and 1.6 million retail clients, serviced by over 300 ATMs throughout Belarus. It has built up a wide commercial base from its original, and still significant agricultural client base, and finances loans for farming equipment. The bank has been accused of financing Belarus military vehicles, a claim it denies. According to the authoritative international publication the Banker, JSC Belagroprombank ranked 787th among Top 1000 World Banks as at the year-end 2015. Besides, JSC Belagroprombank confirmed its 18 place among 25 largest banks in Central and Eastern Europe (Top 25: Central and Eastern Europe).
Bank Dabrabyt OAO (previously Bank Moscow-Minsk) is a state-owned Belarusian bank, headquartered in Minsk. This is a universal bank with a pronounced specialization in retail lending. In the corporate sector, the bank plays an important role servicing export and import transactions between enterprises, including the public sector, Belarus and Russia, including providing finance for infrastructure construction projects between the two countries.
Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus
The Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus (DBRB) is a specialized financial institution founded by the Council of Ministers and the National Bank of the Republic Belarus. The creation of the DBRB was carried out in close cooperation with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and based on international practice of institutional functioning. The main objective of the DBRB is the financing for government programs and the implementation of significant infrastructure investment projects. It finances these in the framework of government programs and activities implementation; supports small and medium-sized enterprises by means of special credit products granted through a network of partner banks; and provides concessional export credits to support large (US$1 million plus) projects of domestic exporters.
The Central Bank of Russia says all Belarusian banks were connected to its System for Transfer of Financial Messages (SPFS), which emerged after the first round of sanctions against Russia in 2014 in a bid to stave off problems for Russian banks if cut off from SWIFT. Banks connect to the SPFS by signing agreements with the Central Bank of Russia. Discussions are also believed to be underway with China.
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