September 4, 2014 / 2:14 PM / 4 years ago

Moscow needs to regulate SWIFT, Reuters, Bloomberg to protect Russia-Finance Ministry

MOSCOW, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Moscow must classify interbank payment system SWIFT and trading systems by ThomsonReuters and Bloomberg as “operators of critical services” so they can be punished if they shut their platforms in Russia, the Finance Ministry said on Thursday.

The ministry said in notes to a draft law on payment systems that Russia could suffer “real damage” because the operation of such platforms was not regulated. To do so, they needed to be classified as “critical infrastructure operator services”, it said on a government website documenting the progress of laws.

It gave no details of what kind of body should regulate the services or what the penalty would be if any of the three were forced to cut their services to Russia or were found guilty of offering incorrect information.

The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Russian officials, state-owned banks and businessmen as punishment for supporting pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine’s east. Moscow denies arming or supplying forces to the rebels.

Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Moiseev said so far the draft law did not envisage any punishment. “The bill has yet to be agreed, therefore it is safe to suggest the first version may be amended,” he said in a statement.

A Thomson Reuters spokesman said: “We are currently reviewing this draft law.” Bloomberg declined to comment.

Russia has drafted a law to regulate a local equivalent to SWIFT in response to concerns that the Belgium-based system, the world’s biggest for electronic payments, could be used in Western sanctions against Moscow over the Ukraine crisis.

Officials have said the law has yet to become policy because the central bank does not so far have the technology to enable processing of interbank transactions within Russia.

In 2012, SWIFT cut off Iranian banks that were the subject of EU 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.

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Darya Korsunskaya, editing by Ralph Boulton

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