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Russia’s central bank on Friday pledged to keep expanding the number of countries that accept its Mir bank cards after new U.S. sanctions targeting people and entities accused of helping Moscow skirt financial sanctions.
The United States on Thursday sanctioned the chief executive of the Bank of Russia’s National Card Payment System (NSPK), which runs Mir, saying it was seeking to hold the Russian government accountable for its Feb. 24 invasion and continuing war against Ukraine.
“Russia has scrambled to find new ways to process payments and conduct transactions,” the U.S. Treasury said. “Directly and indirectly, Russia’s financial technocrats have supported the Kremlin’s unprovoked war.”
The importance of Mir cards for Russians rose substantially this year after U.S. payments firms Visa Inc and Mastercard Inc suspended operations in Russia and their cards that were issued in Russia stopped working abroad.
Cuba, South Korea, Turkey, Vietnam and a handful of former Soviet republics accept Mir, which means both “peace” and “world” in Russian, with others such as Iran intending to follow suit soon.
The central bank said Mir cards and other NSPK services would continue working as usual in Russia.
The Bank of Russia, pictured here in Moscow, Russia, on March 29, 2021, has expanded the reach of its bank card Mir to former Soviet republics like Cuba, Turkey and South Korea. (REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov)
“Foreign partners themselves take decisions about opening their infrastructure to accept Mir cards,” the central bank said. “At the same time, we intend to continue dialogue about expanding the geography of Mir card acceptance.”
The U.S. Treasury said it had blacklisted 22 individuals, including four financial executives whose actions could directly or indirectly support Russia’s war effort by helping it evade financial sanctions imposed on Russia after the invasion.
One of those four was named as Vladimir Komlev, the head of NSPK.
“Russia created its own state-run card payment system in 2014 out of fear of U.S. and European sanctions,” the Treasury said.
“In his role, Komlev has promoted the Mir network in other countries, which ultimately could assist Russia in circumventing international sanctions.”
NSPK did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Moscow says that what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine was necessary to prevent its neighbor being used as a platform for Western aggression, and to defend Russian-speakers. Kyiv and its Western allies dismiss these arguments as baseless pretexts for an imperial-style war of aggression.