French minister declares economic ‘war’ on Russia, and then beats a retreat

By Richard Lough

PARIS (Reuters) -French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire declared an “all-out financial and monetary battle” in opposition to Russia to convey down the its financial system as punishment for invading Ukraine, earlier than rowing again on language he later stated was inappropriate.

America and its allies have imposed sanctions on Russia’s central financial institution, oligarchs and officers, together with President Vladimir Putin himself, and barred some Russian banks from the SWIFT worldwide funds system.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire described the sanctions packages as proving “extraordinarily efficient”.

“We’re waging an all-out financial and monetary battle on Russia,” Le Maire instructed France Information radio. “We are going to trigger the collapse of the Russian financial system.”

Le Maire later instructed French information company AFP he had misspoken and that the time period “battle” was not suitable with France’s efforts to de-escalate tensions surrounding the Ukraine battle.

“We’re not in a battle in opposition to the Russian folks,” the minister added.

In a matter of weeks, Russia has turned from a profitable guess on surging oil costs to an uninvestable market with a central financial institution hamstrung by sanctions, main banks shut out of the worldwide funds system and capital controls choking off cash flows.

On Tuesday, Russia stated it was putting short-term curbs on foreigners in search of to exit Russian property, placing the brakes on an accelerating investor exodus pushed by the sanctions.

Le Maire’s preliminary remarks drew an indignant riposte from Russia’s former president and prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, who’s now the deputy Chair of the Safety Council of the Russian Federation.

“Watch your tongue, gents! And don’t neglect that in human historical past, financial wars very often was actual ones,” Medvedev tweeted.

(Reporting by Sarah Morland, Sudip Kar-Gupta and Richard Lough; Writing by Richard Lough; Modifying by Andrew Heavens and Nick Macfie)

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