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Russian banks switch to Chinese UnionPay after Mastercard & Visa suspended operations in Russia


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On Sunday, several Russian banks announced plans to start issuing cards using the Chinese UnionPay card operator system.

The step, which came shortly after Mastercard and Visa pledged to cease operations in Russia and disconnect all the country’s banks from their payment systems, will enable the holders of new cards to use them for paying and withdrawing cash abroad.

On Saturday, international financial service providers Visa and Mastercard said they would suspend operations in Russia within the next several days due to the latest Western sanctions related to Moscow’s ongoing war in Ukraine. The drastic step makes the use of cards issued in Russia outside the country implausible. Likewise, cards that were issued outside of Russia will stop working in Russia.

Visa and Mastercard are the latest international brands taking harsh moves towards Russia over the Ukrainian conflict. Earlier, companies such as PayPal, Netflix, Intel, Inditex, Airbnb and Rolls Royce announced they were leaving the country’s market.

Russian banks, including Sberbank, Russia’s biggest lender, as well as Alfa Bank and Tinkoff issued announcements regarding the switch to UnionPay due to the latest developments.

Some of Russia’s banks, like Pochta Bank, Gazprombank, Promsvyazbank, Sovcombank and several other minor banks had been previously working with the UnionPay card operator’s system.

UnionPay, an international payment system founded in 2002, received international status in 2005. Headquartered in Shanghai, the company reportedly operates in more than 180 countries across the globe, including Switzerland, Greece, Italy, Spain, Germany, Mexico, Cyprus, Thailand, India, Israel, Portugal, Croatia, Poland, Serbia, Hungary and Austria

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