Kazakh banks allowed to start using Russia’s Mir payment system

ALMATY/DEC. 9 2022 (The Bulletin)  — The US permitted Kazakh banks to operate the Kremlin’s Mir payment system without breaking its sanctions.

The decision is a major climb down from the US’ previous position and will boost Kazakhstan’s attractiveness to Russians who want to shift their cash outside Russia or who have fled the country. 

It is not clear if the decision applies to other Central Asian countries. Under pressure from the US, banks in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan had dropped out of the Mir system worried that they would be accused of helping Russians break sanctions.

“The American agency clarified that it has no objection to the use of Mir bank cards by private individuals, namely citizens who have migrated from Russia to Kazakhstan, to make life-sustaining transactions,” Kazakhstan’s financial market regulator said in a statement.

An estimated 400,000 Russians fled to Kazakhstan in September and October after the Kremlin ordered a mobilisation. Roughly 100,000 of these stayed in Kazakhstan, adding to the thousands who fled in March.

The Mir payment system was set up in 2017 but took on major significance in March after Russia was kicked out of the Swift bank transfer system and Mastercard and Visa withdrew from Russian banks.

The Kazakh financial regulator said that it was up to individual banks whether to accept Mir transfers.


— This story was published in issue 531 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on Dec. 19 2022

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2022

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