Germany has been resisting efforts to cut Sberbank, Russia's biggest bank in terms of assets, off from SWIFT, a global messaging system that facilitates world trade, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing multiple diplomatic sources and documents.
The EU decided to remove seven Russian banks from the system last week as part of sanctions in response to Moscow's ongoing military offensive in Ukraine. Berlin "repeatedly" spoke out against adding Sberbank to the list in order to "shield energy-related transactions," Bloomberg said.
The Financial Times reported last month that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had been initially resistant to remove Russian banks from SWIFT altogether, despite the pressure from fellow EU member states. Berlin later changed its stance as the advance of Russian troops in Ukraine continued.
Russia has argued that it was forced to start a "military operation" its neighbor on February 24 in order to defend the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics, which broke away from Ukraine shortly after the 2014 coup in Kiev. Russia also said it wants Ukraine to officially declare itself a neutral country, forever dropping its bid to join NATO.
Kiev said that the attack was entirely unjustified. Ukraine insisted that it had never posed a threat to Russia and denied claims that it was planning to retake the rebellious republics by force.