Washington: The World Bank has announced that it will stop all its programmes in Russia and Belarus with “immediate effect” in response to Moscow’s military operations in Ukraine and “hostilities” against the people of the war-torn country.
On February 24, Russian forces launched military operations in Ukraine, three days after Moscow recognised Ukraine’s breakaway regions – Donetsk and Luhansk – as independent entities.
The decision comes as a large number of countries, organisations and businesses are severing ties and have imposed sanctions on Russia over the country’s invasion of Ukraine, and with Belarus for its support and cooperation with Moscow.
“The World Bank Group has not approved any new loans to or investments in Russia since 2014. There has also been no new lending approved to Belarus since mid-2020,” the Washington-based global lender said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and hostilities against the people of Ukraine, the World Bank Group has stopped all its programmes in Russia and Belarus with immediate effect, the statement said.
The banking organisation, with 189 member countries across the globe, has not approved any new loans or investments in Russia since 2014, when the country annexed the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine, or in Belarus since 2020, following a disputed presidential election, The Hill reported.
After Russia invaded, World Bank President David Malpass condemned the assault, saying the group was “horrified by the shocking violence and loss of life as a result of the events unfolding in Ukraine.”
“We are a long-standing partner of Ukraine and stand with its people at this critical moment,” Malpass had said in a statement.
On Tuesday, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said it was considering Ukraine’s request for emergency financing, while another programme gave the nation access to USD 2.2 billion through the end of June.
The World Bank Group also announced on Tuesday it was providing a USD 3 billion support package to assist Ukraine.
On March 1, both the IMF and the World Bank Group released a statement on the war in Ukraine, saying “We are deeply shocked and saddened by the devastating human and economic toll brought by the war in Ukraine.
“People are being killed, injured, and forced to flee, and massive damage is caused to the country’s physical infrastructure. We stand with the Ukrainian people through these horrifying developments.”
The US along with its key allies, including the EU and the UK, have disconnected key Russian banks from the interbank messaging system, SWIFT and impose restrictive measures on its central bank.
The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) is the world’s main banking messaging service which links around 11,000 banks and institutions in more than 200 countries, including India.
Based in Belgium, the system is considered central to the smooth functioning of global finances and Russia’s exclusion from it would hit the country hard.
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