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Bill Gives Visa, MasterCard Reprieve Until Oct. 31

Published: June 26, 2014 (Issue # 1817)



  • Visa and MasterCard together process about 90 percent of payments in Russia.
    Photo: Maxim Stulov / Vedomosti

International payment systems Visa and MasterCard could get a reprieve until Oct. 31 on a security deposit of up to $2.9 billion that the Russian government has demanded they pay if they are to continue operating in Russia.

According to a draft bill by the Finance Ministry published Wednesday on the government's legislation portal, payment systems operating in Russia can be freed from the obligation to pay a security deposit until Nov. 1 this year on one condition. To receive the exemption, the companies will need to stop providing information about money transfers carried out in Russia to clearing centers abroad.

The Federation Council on Wednesday approved a bill giving the government the right to set the details for Visa and MasterCard's payment of the security deposit, Vedomosti reported.

Visa and MasterCard, who together process about 90 percent of payments in Russia, fell victim to international tensions in March after they cut services to two Russian banks in order to comply with U.S. sanctions imposed following Russia's annexation of Crimea.

President Vladimir Putin soon after called for the creation of a national payment system to cut Russia's dependence on companies subject to the political policies of foreign governments. Signed into law in early May, the legislation also requires international payment systems to submit a massive security deposit to Russia's Central Bank in order to continue operating in Russia.

The deposit, estimated by Morgan Stanley at $2.9 billion, is five times more than Visa and MasterCard's joint annual revenues in Russia a country that accounts for less than 4 percent of the companies' global revenues and analysts suggested that the two companies might be better off simply leaving the market altogether. Under the law, the payment systems would also have to build processing centers in Russia and pay fines of up to 10 percent of the funds held by the Central Bank in the event of a unilateral denial of services.

The State Duma last week began discussing amendments to soften the law, and First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said that the deposit payments will be "substantially reduced."

MasterCard meanwhile said that it was looking for a Russian partner to process payments within the country, which could help the company sidestep the law. Visa, however, said that the requirement to pay the massive security deposit is "unworkable," Reuters reported.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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