sanctions against Russia’s central bank came into force after being published in the EU’s Official Journal in the early hours of Monday.
They include a ban on transactions with the Russian financial institution, according to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
All of the bank’s assets in the EU will also be frozen in a bid to block financing for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine.
The measure is considered just as hefty as the planned exclusion of Russian financial institutions from the SWIFT banking network.
The EU sanctions combined with those of its G7 partner’s mean around half of the financial reserves of Russia’s Central Bank will be frozen, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said on Sunday evening.
According to experts, this means Russia will for example no longer be able to use its foreign currency holdings to stabilise the ruble.
The Russian currency has already been weakened, which will bring further hardship to Russia’s people.
Not all of the Russian central bank’s reserves can be blocked, Borrell said, because they are not all in Western states.
The EU cannot block reserves in Moscow or China, for example, he said and added that Russia has increasingly stashed its reserves in countries where they cannot be blocked.
The exclusion of Russia from SWIFT is expected to come on Monday.
The EU also plans to impose further sanctions against Russia’s ally Belarus and against Russian oligarchs, business people, and politicians.
In a surprising move, Swiss President Ignazio Cassis said it was “highly likely’’ his government would decide on Monday to freeze Russian assets in the country, Swiss news agency SDA reported.
The possibility of following other countries in sanctioning Putin would also be on the table, Cassis said.
He added that any final decision about freezing capital would have to take Switzerland’s neutral status into consideration.
Cassis had previously pointed to Swiss neutrality and said Switzerland would not impose sanctions in spite of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Switzerland is an important financial centre for Russians.