Russian cards are turning into simple plastic: another country has abandoned the "Mir" system

Kseniya KapustynskaNews
Mir cards will not work in Kyrgyzstan
Mir cards will not work in Kyrgyzstan. Source: Sberbank of Russia

Banks in Kyrgyzstan will stop working with cards of the Russian payment system "Mir," whose operator has been sanctioned by the United States. Starting from April 5, 2024, such cards will no longer be read by ATMs and POS terminals.

Also, money transfers and online payments in favor of Kyrgyz accounts will stop for "Mir" cards. This was officially announced by the Interbank Processing Center (IPC) of Kyrgyzstan.

It is noted that such a decision was made due to US sanctions against the Russian National Payment Card System (NPCS), the operator of the "Mir" payment system. In this regard, the Interbank Processing Center announced the termination of relations with the NPC in order not to fall under secondary sanctions.

"On February 23, 2024, OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control, a division of the US Treasury responsible for controlling foreign assets) imposed sanctions against JSC National Payment Card System, the card operator of the "Mir" payment system. To minimize the risk of secondary sanctions, Interbank Processing Center CJSC, as a guarantor of the uninterrupted operation of the national payment system "Elcard," informs about the termination of relations with JSC NSPK from April 5, 2024," the statement said.

In connection with the termination of the service of "Mir" cards in the "Elcard" payment system, users will not be able to perform the main types of operations from April 3, 2024, from noon local time. These are:

  • card servicing in acquiring devices (cashless payments at POS terminals and cash withdrawals at ATMs)
  • card-to-card transfers;
  • e-commerce: online payments from a card to the accounts of trade and service companies.

"Mir" is shrinking: where is it possible to pay with Russian cards

NSPC, the operator of the "Mir" system, was established in Russia in 2014 after sanctions were imposed over the occupation of Ukrainian Crimea. The company is 100% owned by the Bank of Russia.

The direct purpose of the NSPC was the desire of the Russian authorities to insure themselves against the disconnection of cards from international payment systems. After the international payment systems Visa and Mastercard left Russia in March 2022, and their Russian cards stopped working abroad, Russians used Mir cards for non-cash payments abroad, although the network of acceptance of these cards was much more limited than that of international payment systems.

After the sanctions were renewed, the list of countries in which "Mir" operates is shrinking. At the time of the introduction of the US restrictions, "Mir" cards could be used, in particular, in:

  • Kazakhstan;
  • Belarus;
  • Venezuela;
  • Vietnam;
  • Kyrgyzstan;
  • Armenia;
  • Tajikistan;
  • Cuba.

On March 30, Armenia stopped accepting payments in the "Mir" system. The only exception was the infrastructure of VTB Armenia, a subsidiary of Russian VTB.

Most banks in Kazakhstan also refused to service Russian "Mir" cards. Only VTB Bank and Berek Bank partially continue to work with them.

In Tajikistan, only two banks continue to accept "Mir" cards. These are the state-owned Amonatbank and Dushanbe City Bank. And in Uzbekistan, "Mir" has not been operating since the fall of 2023.

In addition, the Mir Pay mobile payment system, designed to pay with cards of the Russian Mir system, has disappeared from Google Play. The Samsung Pay mobile payment service now completely prohibits the usage of "Mir" cards.

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