More countries join Russia’s SWIFT alternative – Central Bank

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Russia’s SPFS interbank messaging system is expanding at an unprecedented pace and now includes 469 participants, according to Alla Bakina, head of the Central Bank’s national payment system department. 

“Over the past year, we have connected as many [members] as for the entire period of the system’s operation,” the banking official stated on Friday on the sidelines of a forum in Ekaterinburg. Around 115 of the participants are foreign entities from 14 countries, Bakina added.

She noted that the Russian Central Bank is working to connect even more countries to its SPFS system. “We work with friendly countries; they connect in different formats – both individually and through a service bureau. The list is expanding,” said the official.

An alternative to SWIFT, the SPFS ensures the transfer of financial messages between banks inside and outside of Russia. It was created in late 2014 in response to the first wave of sanctions over Crimea’s reunification with Russia, which targeted a number of Russian banks, among other entities.

Moscow has promoted the use of the SPFS as the West has ramped up sanctions. Russia has also accelerated efforts to move away from the dollar and euro towards settlements in national currencies.

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