Visa and MasterCard enforce US sanctions on Russian banks

Russian tourists in the UK could face being left stranded penniless

Russian tourists in the UK could face being left stranded penniless after card giants Visa and MasterCard announced plans to enforce US sanctions on Russian banks.

Visitors and business travellers holding MasterCard or Visa credit and debit cards issued by a number of major Russia-based banks face the prospect of having their cards effectively cancelled without prior notice.

US-based Visa and MasterCard have restricted at least four Russian banks so far from accessing their global payment networks in order to comply with US sanctions against Russia after Crimea was formally annexed by Moscow on Friday.

The banks involved said card services simply stopped without warning and described the restrictions as 'unlawful'.

A number of as-yet unidentified individuals are also expected to be affected by the move.

But Russian president Vladimir Putin said the sanctions "would not have a serious bearing" on the country's financial stability.

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He said he will open an account at one of the affected banks in a show of solidarity with the lender, telling a meeting of Russia's Security Council: "I personally don't have an account there, but I certainly will open one on Monday".

A spokesman for Visa said: "The US Department of Treasury imposed sanctions on some Russian individuals and entities. In order to comply with US law, Visa International Service Association is required to suspend access to the Visa network for these sanctioned entities. Currently as of March 21, 2014 they include: Bank Rossiya, Sobinbank, SMP-Bank and Investcapitalbank."

MasterCard could not be reached for comment.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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