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Russia Turns to China for Domestic Bank Card Microchips

Russia is turning to microchip manufacturers in China to circumvent western sanctions which have boosted demand for bank cards linked to Mir payment system, a payment card executive said.

Mir and UnionPay are among the few options left for Russians to make payments abroad since Russian banks were isolated from the global financial system in response to Moscow's war in Ukraine. Photo: Reuters.


Russia is turning to microchip manufacturers in China to circumvent sanctions that have boosted demand for bank cards linked to the Mir payment system, an executive with the domestic payment system said.

Sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine have cut Moscow off the global financial system and from nearly half of its $640 billion in gold and foreign exchange reserves.

Oleg Tishakov, a board member with the National Card Payment System (NSPK), said Russia is facing a shortage of microchips as Asian manufacturers suspend production amid a coronavirus pandemic and European suppliers have halted supply.

“We are looking for new microchip suppliers and [have] found a couple in China, with certification process ongoing,” Tishakov told a conference on Tuesday, without giving further details.

Some of Russia‘s biggest banks no longer have access to the SWIFT global banking messaging system, and Visa and Mastercard have stopped servicing Russian accounts abroad. Mir’s connection to Apple Pay was removed last month.

NSPK issued over 2 million Mir cards between the end of 2021 and March, according to Reuters calculations based on the system’s data, with total cards outstanding now at 116 million.

All major Russian banks have reported an increased demand for the domestic card, which some now issue in a co-brand with China’s UnionPay, an alternative payment system to Visa and Mastercard for purchases by Russians abroad.

Mir cards are also accepted by some banks in Turkey, Vietnam, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Russian-occupied breakaway regions in Georgia.


• Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard





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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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