Visa, Mastercard suspend Russia operations after request by Zelensky

Cards issued in Russia will no longer work outside the country, while cards issued abroad will no longer work in Russia.

MasterCard and VISA credit cards are seen in this picture illustration taken June 9, 2016 (photo credit: MAXIM ZMEYEV/REUTERS)
MasterCard and VISA credit cards are seen in this picture illustration taken June 9, 2016
(photo credit: MAXIM ZMEYEV/REUTERS)

Visa and Mastercard announced that they were suspending work in Russia on Saturday night due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, fulfilling a request made earlier by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

"We are compelled to act following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the unacceptable events that we have witnessed," said Al Kelly, chairman and chief executive officer of Visa Inc. "We regret the impact this will have on our valued colleagues, and on the clients, partners, merchants and cardholders we serve in Russia. This war and the ongoing threat to peace and stability demand we respond in line with our values."

In the coming days, Visa cards issued in Russia will no longer work outside of the country and any Visa cards issued outside of Russia will no longer work within the country.

"As we have navigated and complied with our regulatory commitments, we have been in constant dialogue with our customers, partners and governments," Mastercard said in a press release. "We’ve received perspectives from our employees, in addition to people across the industry, consumers and our shareholders. We have also considered what would be most important to support the continued availability of services, if possible, to impacted people in the region."

 People queue at an ATM after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Lviv, Ukraine February 24, 2022.  (credit: REUTERS/PAVLO PALAMARCHUK) People queue at an ATM after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Lviv, Ukraine February 24, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/PAVLO PALAMARCHUK)

"It’s with all of this in mind – and noting the unprecedented nature of the current conflict and the uncertain economic environment – [that] we have decided to suspend our network services in Russia," Mastercard added.

According to Mastercard, cards issued by Russian banks will no longer be supported by the Mastercard network and Mastercards issued outside Russia will no longer work at Russian merchants or ATMs.

Mastercard has operated in Russia for over 25 years and has nearly 200 colleagues in the country. The company added that it will restore operations in the country "when it is appropriate, and if it's permissible under the law."

The Central Bank of Russia stated on Saturday night that Visa and Mastercard cards issued by Russian banks will continue to work within Russia and that customer funds linked to such cards are fully saved and available, according to TASS. Cross-border transactions with these cards will not be available either online or in-store.

Alfa-Bank stated that the decision by Visa and Mastercard will likely take effect in about three days and advised those using Russian credit cards abroad to withdraw cash.

During a Zoom call with members of the US Congress on Saturday, Zelensky called for the suspension of commercial transactions, including through Visa and Mastercard, as well as for more military support, including planes, according to CNN.