Russia hides details, but says Mir bank cards still work in Turkey

  • This content was produced in Russia, where the law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine

KAZAN, Russia, Sept 22 (Reuters) - The head of Russia's National Card Payments System (NSPK) said on Thursday that it was no longer disclosing which countries accept its Mir bank cards, but that they still worked in Turkey, despite some Turkish banks suspending their use.

Russia's central bank vowed last week to expand the number of countries that accept its Mir cards, despite new U.S. sanctions targeting people and entities accused of helping Moscow skirt financial sanctions.

Denizbank and Isbank, two private banks in Turkey, a leading destination for Russian travellers, suspended the use of Mir after Washington included NSPK head Vladimir Komlev in its sanctions programme, imposed in response to Russia's military campaign in Ukraine.

But Komlev told a banking forum in Kazan: "We are not considering the option of completely abandoning the use of Mir cards abroad ... The level of concern and noise ... is quite over the top."

However, he said NSPK had decided to remove information about which countries the card works in from its website.

Andrei Kostin, CEO of Russia's no. 2 lender VTB (VTBR.MM), said the situation with Mir cards was "complete mayhem" and acknowledged that U.S. pressure was affecting banks in countries that had not imposed sanctions on Moscow.

"The Americans have always said that sanctions apply to those areas of financial activity where the dollar is involved. The Mir card does not use the dollar and it is does not fall under U.S. sanctions policy by any criteria.

"The U.S. has not even imposed sanctions on Mir cards ... but we see that countries friendly to us are abandoning this instrument that we were planning to develop," he said, referring to Turkey, Vietnam and Kazakhstan.

Beyond Turkey, the cards are currently only accepted in a few countries such as Cuba, South Korea, Vietnam and a handful of former Soviet republics.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will convene a top tier economy-focused meeting on Friday at which Mir and possible Western sanctions will be discussed, two sources with information on the matter told Reuters. read more

Reporting by Elena Fabrichnaya and Alexander Marrow; writing by Caleb Davis; Editing by Kevin Liffey

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.