Visa and MasterCard freeze transactions at Russian banks

The two payment firms have stopped providing services to Bank Rossiya and SMP Bank.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 15 Apr 2014

The US has already introduced asset freezes and visa bans on high ranking Russian officials – now Visa and Mastercard have also stopped providing services to two Russian banks, St Petersburg-based Bank Rossiya and SMP Bank.

Bank Rossiya, which was put under U.S. sanctions on Thursday, responded by saying it was working in a ‘stable regime’ and was taking all the necessary legal measures to defend the bank's and its clients' rights and legal interests.

US officials have singled out Bank Rossiya, Russia’s 17th largest lender, because it is the personal bank for senior Russian officials and is controlled by an associate of the president.

However, President Vladimir Putin has since vowed to keep his salary at the bank. He said it had nothing to do with the events in Crimea, and has promised to protect the institution.

‘The management of Rossiya understands the difficulties of clients in the current situation and will do all it can to solve them,’ the bank said in a statement.

But is there going to be widespread panic at Harrods and Harvey Nicks this lunchtime as London-based Russians go out to blow a few hundred grand on caviar and Chanel only to find they get their credit cards snipped in half?

The US has imposed sanctions over Russian individuals for their part in Russia’s seizure of Crimea on Thursday, and it has begun preparations for economic sanctions if Russia expands its footprint in Ukraine.

Moscow’s Micex index has lost more than 10% this month, wiping out billions in market capitalization.

European leaders have also added 12 people to a list of those subject to travel bans and asset freezes over the Crimea standoff.

According to Reuters, French President Francois Hollande declined to give details of the names added to the list, which was agreed among the EU's 28 leaders after six hours of talks, but said it included Russians and Crimeans and raised the total number of people subject to EU sanctions to 33.

- Read MT's feature on Russian oligarchs in London.

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