MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia will speed up work on reducing dependency on U.S. payment systems and the dollar as a settling currency, RIA news agency cited Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying on Monday.
It is a response to the new sanctions against Russia reluctantly signed into law last week by U.S. President Donald Trump. The sanctions targeted Russia’s energy sector, with new limits on U.S. investment in Russian companies.
“We will of course intensify work related to import substitution, reduction of dependence on U.S. payment systems, on the dollar as a settling currency and so on. It is becoming a vital need,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying.
“(Otherwise) we will always sit on their hook, exactly what they need,” he said, referring to the United States.
Russia has already introduced a new national payment system to cut reliance on Western systems, such as Visa and MasterCard.
Those operators stopped providing services to clients of one Russian bank after Washington imposed sanctions over Moscow’s role in the Ukraine crisis, including its annexation of Crimea from Kiev and support of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The Russian payment system is called Mir, which translates as “World” or “Peace”.
“Your card is free from external factors. Created in Russia,” runs an advertisement for Mir cards.
To date, more than 13.9 million Mir cards have been issued in Russia, according to the Russian National System of Payment Cards (NSPK), or about 10 percent of the country’s population.
NSPK was established in 2014 and is 100 percent owned by the central bank.
More than 380 banks working in Russia accept these cards which are issued by 120 banks. Practically all trade and service points, including cafes, shops, restaurants and petrol stations accept payments with Mir cards.
Furthermore, Mir cards are welcome in sanctions-hit Crimea where Western banks are prohibited to operate.
Writing by Polina Nikolskaya; additional reporting by Kira Zavyalova; Editing by Dmitry Solovyov/Jeremy Gaunt