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Turkiye expanding Russia payment system to assist tourists, says Minister

A photo taken on March 14, 2022, shows a Russian ruble coin and the Russian Mir payment system logo on a bank card in Moscow [AFP via Getty Images]
A photo taken on March 14, 2022, shows a Russian ruble coin and the Russian Mir payment system logo on a bank card in Moscow [AFP via Getty Images]

Turkiye is expanding the Russian payment system, 'MIR', and ensuring that Russian tourists to the country will not have obstructions to their transactions, as Russia and its citizens remain cut off from the global financial system and more expansive forms of payment.

Speaking to reporters before a cabinet meeting in the capital, Ankara, on Monday, Turkish Treasury and Finance Minister, Nureddin Nebati, said that Russians "can't use Troy [Turkish payment system] abroad, but the MIR card is very widely used and gaining popularity."

He assured that there is a sizeable market for Russians using the card in Turkiye and that it is expanding, stating that "The rate of businesses accepting MIR cards was around 15 per cent, and the banks are distributing more right now. There will not be any problem for Russian tourists."

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the end of February, the country was heavily sanctioned by western states and was cut off from the SWIFT payment system, which prevented banks and citizens from accessing and easily transferring money within the global financial system through the network of banks using it throughout the world.

Russians were also cut off from using the Visa and MasterCard payment methods, which are some of the largest and most prominent, leaving them with fewer and limited options. Alongside alternative non-western payment methods such as the Chinese UnionPay, the existence of the MIR payment method has reportedly saved many Russians, both within their country and abroad.

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MIR owes its roots to efforts made since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, when oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin suffered under sanctions and knew that they had to form alternative systems to enable international financial transactions.

Moscow, therefore, had eight years to prepare for the flurry of sanctions imposed on it and its outcast from the international community and the MIR system is operational in Turkiye, Armenia, Vietnam, and some other countries.

Turkish banks which accept the system – and have consequently enjoyed massive increases in revenue through it in recent months – consist of the private lender, Işbank, and the public banks VakıfBank and Ziraat Bank.

The hosting and expansion of Russian payment system in Turkiye has ensured Russian tourists continue to travel to, visit, and stay in the country despite their government's ongoing military offensive in Ukraine and the condemnation by western and European nations.

Throughout the war, Ankara has remained neutral and attempted to maintain a mediatory role. The continuation of direct flights to and from Russia, and the encouragement of Russian tourists, have been part of that. It has, however, repeatedly urged Moscow to halt its offensive and agree to a ceasefire, while sending aid to Ukraine.

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