UPDATE 1-Russian bank SMP says Visa, MasterCard resume payment services
(Adds Mastercard, Visa comment)
MOSCOW, March 23 (Reuters) - Visa Inc and MasterCard Inc have resumed services for payment transactions for clients at Russia's SMP bank, whose main shareholders were affected by U.S. sanctions, the bank said on Sunday.
Washington imposed additional sanctions on Thursday against 20 Russians for involvement in the Ukraine crisis, including Boris Rotenberg and his older brother Arkady, who received large contracts for the Sochi Winter Olympics. They are co-owners of SMP Bank.
SMP had said on Friday that Visa and MasterCard had stopped providing services for payment transactions for clients at SMP bank, which has about 100 branches covering more than 20 Russian cities, according to its website.
A spokesperson for Mastercard confirmed it was again serving clients of the bank but did not say why it reversed its decision.
Visa said it had been informed by the U.S. government to lift sanctions against SMP bank and two other Russian banks because they did not meet the criteria for sanctions. "All cards issued by these banks will return to normal operation as soon as possible," it said in a statement.
Visa's statement named the other two banks as Investitsionny Soyuz (Investment Union) and InvestKapitalBank.
SMP bank had said the decision to stop providing services by Visa and MasterCard was unlawful because the sanctions were imposed on shareholders, not the bank, which said it has no assets in the United States.
"We are glad that the two biggest international payment systems have heard our arguments and reversed their decision to block (SMP bank transactions)," SMP bank CEO Dmitry Kalantyrsky, said in a statement. (Reporting by Oksana Kobzeva; Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Jane Merriman)
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