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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

MasterCard, Visa restart payments for SMP Bank

Visa and MasterCard restarted processing payment transactions on Sunday for customers of Russia's SMP Bank.

The U.S. government blacklisted multiple businessmen linked to the bank on Thursday. SMP Bank responded by cutting payment services on Friday, the Financial Times reports.

"Based on clarifications provided to Visa by the U.S. government, Visa has determined that we are not required to block SMP Bank's access to our network," Visa said, according to the Financial Times. "As a result, Visa has reestablished network connectivity with SMP."

SMP is jointly owned by billionaire brothers Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, who reportedly have close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Washington banned the Rotenbergs and 18 other Russian officials and tycoons from either entering the U.S. or conducting financial transactions with Americans.

The action came as retaliation for Putin's annexation of Crimea. Western leaders criticized the annexation as the biggest threat to European peace since the Cold War.

"This is not an unusual situation when sanctions are issued," Mastercard said, according to CNNMoney. "Questions are raised, and refinements are made by the regulators from time to time. We will continue our active dialogue with regulators and our efforts to minimize the impact on the Russian payments market."

The reversal by Visa and Mastercard could mean that Washington's sanctions will not have as large an impact on corporate Russia as initially feared.

"We are glad that the two biggest international payment systems have heard our arguments and reversed their decision," Dmitry Kalantyrsky, the chief executive of SMP Bank, said, according to the Financial Times.