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Russian Banks Issue Cards with China's UnionPay as Western Payment Networks Cut Links

Russian Banks Issue Cards with China’s UnionPay as Western Payment Networks Cut Links

(8 March 2022 – Global) Several Russian banks announced plans to start issuing cards using the Chinese UnionPay card operator system, including Sberbank, the country's biggest lender, as well as Alfa Bank and Tinkoff.

The move comes after Western payments firms AMEX, Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, and most recently Western Union, suspended operations in Russia, joining the list of companies that are severing business links with Russia.

Sberbank and Tinkoff could start issuing cards co-badging Russia's domestic Mir payments system with UnionPay.

Several banks including Pochta Bank, Gazprombank, Promsvyazbank, Sovcombank already use UnionPay.

“With this action, cards issued by Russian banks will no longer be supported by the Mastercard network. And, any Mastercard issued outside of the country will not work at Russian merchants or ATMs,” the Mastercard statement said following the announcement.

Visa CEO Al Kelly said that, while the company doesn’t like that it has to impact employees, clients, partners, merchants and cardholders in the country, there was no other choice — because of the country’s threats to “peace and stability,” the company had to “respond in line with our values.”

In a statement, Western Union says it evaluated the consequences for employees, partners, and customers before deciding on the suspension "in light of the ongoing tragic impact of Russia’s prolonged assault on Ukraine".

Elsewhere, Wall Street players Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase signalled their withdrawal from Russia, with both saying that they are winding down operations in the country.

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