What is SWIFT, and why does it matter in the Russia-Ukraine war?

A demonstrator outside the Russian Embassy in Vienna holds a poster reading “Ban Russia from SWIFT” during a protest Feb. 26 against the invasion of Ukraine. (Hans Punz/AFP/Getty Images)

As the United States, Canada and European allies prepared to step up pressure on Russian financial institutions this weekend, they vowed to cut some banks off from the SWIFT messaging system, a network that connects banks around the world and is considered the backbone of international finance.

Whether to target Russia through SWIFT was an initial point of division among Western nations on sanctions in the Ukraine crisis, with the French finance minister calling a move to cut Russia off from the mechanism a “financial nuclear weapon.”

Here’s what you need to know about SWIFT and the debate about whether to pressure the network to exclude Russian financial institutions.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russia claimed to have seized control of Soledar, a heavily contested salt-mining town in eastern Ukraine where fighting has raged recently, but a Ukrainian military official maintained that the battle was not yet over. The U.S. and Germany are sending tanks to Ukraine.

Russia’s Gamble: The Post examined the road to war in Ukraine, and Western efforts to unite to thwart the Kremlin’s plans, through extensive interviews with more than three dozen senior U.S., Ukrainian, European and NATO officials.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

Read our full coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war. Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for updates and exclusive video.