NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia would develop its own credit card system to reduce reliance on Western-based companies and soften the potential blow from U.S. and EU sanctions.
Putin voiced his support for plans described by senior officials to create a domestic-based system in response to restrictions placed on Russian banks last week by Visa and MasterCard, which are widely use by Russians.
“We certainly must do this, and we will do it,” Putin told senior Russian lawmakers during a meeting that mainly focused on efforts to integrate the Crimea region after he signed legislation to make it part of Russia last week.
Visa and MasterCard last week stopped providing services for payment transactions for clients at Bank Rossiya, under U.S. sanctions over what the West says is Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
The two payment systems also suspended services for clients at several other banks whose shareholders are on the U.S. sanctions list. They resumed services after the U.S. government said this did not mean the banks were subject to sanctions.
“It is really too bad that certain companies have decided on ... restrictions,” Putin said, without naming Visa or MasterCard. “I think this will simply cause them to lose certain segments of the market - a very profitable market.”
Russia has been largely integrated into the global economy since the 1991 collapse of the communist Soviet Union, but the biggest confrontation since the Cold War has led officials to look for ways to reduce reliance on the West.
After hitting Russian officials and lawmakers with visa bans and asset freezes over the annexation of Crimea, the United States and European Union are threatening measures affecting entire economic sectors if Russia escalates the crisis.
Western states have emphasised they do not recognise Crimea as being part of Russia, but Putin - his popularity boosted by the acquisition - has pressed ahead with steps to integrate the Black Sea Peninsula.
“We must do everything as swiftly as possible so that those who live in Crimea ... feel like fully-fledged citizens of the Russian Federation,” Putin told the senior lawmakers.
Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia in a March 16 referendum dismissed as a sham by Western governments which say it violated Ukraine’s constitution and was held only after Russian forces seized control of the Black Sea peninsula.
Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk, Writing by Steve Gutterman, Editing by Timothy Heritage/Ruth Pitchford