Visa and Mastercard joined a growing list of Western financial companies that have announced plans to withdraw from Russia. Seeking alternatives, the nation’s central bank said it turned to China’s UnionPay system.

President Vladimir Putin launched a “special military operation” against Ukraine less than two weeks ago, which is still going on to this day with no real end in sight for either side. NATO and the EU decided not to escalate the conflict by becoming directly involved through their own military actions. Instead, they opted for a more 21st-century option: imposing all kinds of sanctions against the country, the oligarchs, people close to Putin, and ordinary citizens. Most of those measures were directed at the financial system of the Russian Federation. Among the first was the removal of several banks from SWIFT. During this weekend, it became known that some of the largest Western financial companies will also stop providing services to Russians, including Visa, Mastercard and PayPal. While speculation is rife as to whether locals will turn to crypto given the volume of trade that has soared since the war began, Russia’s central bank has outlined another solution. The institution said that local lenders will be able to use China’s UnionPay system. Founded 20 years ago and headquartered in Shanghai, China, UnionPay (known internationally as CUP or UPI) operates in more than 180 countries, according to Russia’s central bank. It’s also worth noting that the organization said that UnionPay could work alongside Russia’s own payment system – Mir.

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