Russia renews plan for domestic alternative to Visa, Mastercard

MOSCOW, March 26 Wed Mar 26, 2014 2:39pm EDT

MOSCOW, March 26 (Reuters) - Russia has revived plans to develop its own card payment system to cut its dependence on Visa and Mastercard after U.S. sanctions led to disruptions in their services, its finance minister said on Wednesday.

Visa and MasterCard last week stopped providing services for payment transactions for clients at Bank Rossiya, which was hit by U.S. sanctions over Moscow's involvement in a crisis in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.

The two payment systems also suspended services for clients at several other banks whose shareholders, but not the banks, are on the U.S. list.

They resumed services after the U.S. government said these banks did not meet criteria for sanctions.

"The payments restriction by Visa and Mastercard at one bank made us start thinking very seriously how we can secure ourselves against this kind of cases," Anton Siluanov said in an interview on the Rossiya 24 channel.

The "backup" national payment system would operate only on Russian territory, he said.

Siluanov said the ministry and Russian banks were preparing proposals and these would be implemented in the near future.

"Nevertheless, we believe that there is no serious reason to say that we should abandon the existing systems, especially Visa and Mastercard, but in parallel we will begin to focus more on developing our own settlement system," he said.

St Petersburg-based Bank Rossiya faces sanctions after being described by the United States as "the personal bank for senior officials" of Russia. (Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Anthony Barker)