Fog of Financial Sanctions: Visa and Mastercard Shutdown in Russia Whacks Consumers

Just as it is very hard to tell what is really going on on the military front in Ukraine, so too it is hard to judge what is really happening on the financial sanctions front in Russia. A key point that is not well reported is that the SWIFT block against Russia is leaky. Yet all of the financial analyses I have seen so far presume that the SWIFT ban lives up to its billing, and I have yet to see any commentary based on the instructions to banks and how those affect various customers.

As Clive grumbled:

The whole “block access to SWIFT” is an inaccurate misnomer and really should itself be banned. If the US disconnects Russia from SWIFT (stops routing SWIFT transactions from inside Russia) but does not “blacklist” (put nulls into entries corresponding to the banks in scope on the SDN [Sanction Designated Names] list) this would enable Russia to find workarounds, such as sock-puppet entities in the rest of the world.

Recall that the intent is not to stop Westerners from taking on more dollars by letting Russia sell fuel and other commodities; it is to prevent Russia from using dollars, in particular having its central bank use its FX horde to support the rouble. But that begs the question of why Russia should accept more dollars when the intent is to turn them into useless chits. The most sensible response would be for Russia to sell commodities outside the West and Europe. China is very long dollar FX reserves which are largely an economic dead weight. How about a fuel discount for dollar intervention futures?

Several sources have opined that it should be possible to evade them to a fair, even considerable degree, through cutouts. However, figuring out how to navigate won’t happen overnight, and even then, how much can go through convoluted routes may indeed be more restricted. And a central bank often needs to move too much too fast for any of these cute circuitous routes to do much good.

And Clive’s reading yesterday and today has been confirmed in the Financial Times. From Iran’s experience signals banning Swift will not work as expected:

It wasn’t until March 2012 that Iranian financial institutions were kicked out of Swift. That the US waited this long to push for a Swift ban tells us it was simply not a priority….

The reason ejecting Iran from Swift was never a priority is because, as long as there were third-country banks based outside the US willing to help with workarounds, a ban would have little effect.

Swift is a messaging system, not a payment system. Unlike the payments themselves, messages can be sent by many different routes. In the case of Russia, banks could use its own transfer system, the SPFS (Sistema Peredachi Finansovykh Soobscheniy), which was established after the 2014 invasion of Crimea by the Central Bank of Russia.

This system is increasingly used by domestic banks for cross currency payments within the Eurasian Economic Union — made up of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan — and Russia claims it accounted for 17 per cent of Russian international payments messages in 2020. It is also used by some Russian bank subsidiaries in Germany and Switzerland. Russia could also use the Cross-Border Interbank Payment System, or CIPS, network created in 2015 by the People’s Bank of China for the purpose of cross-border payments in renminbi. CIPS features indirect participants in many countries. All these systems — Swift, SPFS, and CIPS — have the same architecture based on the global payments messaging standard ISO20022.

Rerouting through these alternative systems is simply “plug and play”, provided you have a member bank willing to plug you in. Mastercard and Visa systems could also be used for payment transfers. At a pinch they might even use WhatsApp if they are confident in its security from hacking.

Clive adds:

The article gets a bit confused (as often happens) between the massaging aspects of money transmission and the accounting settlement. Both are needed. It is quite correct, as it does in the piece, to say that any messaging system (you could indeed use Instagram) will do, in going down that rabbit hole, it ends up back in the “banning Russia from SWIFT” misclassification.

It completely omits how the accounting gets done and how that, once an entity is SDN’ed, is where the problems for the country which is subject to these measures start.

As soon as the NOSTROs of the bank concerned are identified and blocked, it’s game over in terms of being able to execute the remittance. So what’s proposed to replace those? You can use the shadow banking system to set up accounts and hopefully keep them hidden. But sooner or later, you have to interface to the legitimate banking system (assuming you’re dealing with a legitimate parties as buyers or sellers) and then you start to show your kahoonas.

Even more narrowly, the big noisemaking about crippling the Russian central bank was jarringly at odds with it bein able to do a large FX intervention Monday morning, big enough to halt and partly reverse the plunge of the rouble. But as Clive said:

It’s a long walk between policy announcement, legal certainty and system changes. Unless everyone has coded up and implemented the new policy, Russian Central Bank US$ sell / rouble buy trades will still be being accepted (although it’ll start to get hit and miss).

In the meantime, our Clive provided more technical detail, which you’ll find at the first footnote.1 The key item is governments need to identify SDNs, as in those “Sanction Designated Names”. And even when you have them, implementation is not as tidy as you might imagine. Again from Clive:

Atlantic Council, so you too can test your barf reflex as I did, but I decided to send it in the end as an illustration that there is still a bit of a gap between policy creation and the nitty-gritty of policy implementation:

I really, really object to the use of the phrasing “scalpel-like” here. This can be very valid for SDN’ed individuals. It is much more problematic if we’ve had to SDN entities. SDN’ing entities, when those entities are major money-centre banks, is a very blunt instrument. Once wielded, it can’t easily be unwielded in a hurry. Transaction processing in SWIFT don’t just come to a juddering halt, SDNs get unwound. Unwinding takes several days to a few weeks and re-winding them, if the entity is inappropriately SDN’ed not much less time.

Where the financial sanctions are biting pronto is at the retail level. From Reuters:

U.S. payment card firms Visa Inc (V.N) and Mastercard Inc have blocked multiple Russian financial institutions from their network, complying with government sanctions imposed over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine….

The government sanctions require Visa to suspend access to its network for entities listed as Specially Designated Nationals, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. The United States has added various Russian financial firms to the list, including the country’s central bank and second-largest lender VTB….

Russians rushed to ATMs and waited in long queues on Sunday and Monday amid concerns that bank cards may cease to function, or that banks would limit cash withdrawals.

So far, I have not read that ATMs are running out of cash or that the size of ATM withdrawals has been limited. Russia might have higher levels of physical currency relative to GDP than advanced economy norms due to Russia’s 1998 financial crisis leading to a certain fondness for the Mattress Bank.

As Lambert pointed out, Moscow was foolish enough to make ApplePay a mode of payment for its subways, and pplePay is an interface over a Visa/Mastercard back end. So that no longer being operative also results in long queues to pay in cash.

As we pointed out yesterday, Russia does have a strictly domestic card network. But is is nowhere of the scale of Visa and Mastercard. Wikipedia states that there were 100 million Mir cards issued as of October 2021. Russia has roughly 100 million adults, but that doesn’t mean the cards are evenly distributed.

If Wikipedia is accurate and these are cards rather than mere individual accounts, that’s actually a plus. Per Clive:

Having a workable internal network is one thing, but there was nothing to force Russian banks from being scheme members of the internal network and not a huge set of incentives (until last Thursday’s bolt from the blue) for banks and card issuers to become members of the internal network (as opposed to, say being members of the VISA / Mastercard schemes). So some banks will have issued their cards under the internal network, some under non-Russian controlled schemes.

Further complicating matters is the (lamentable) industry trend to issuing virtual cards only (i.e. you don’t get a physical card, you only get a virtual card which you load into your virtual wallet e.g. Apple Pay / Google Pay). Word of advice to anyone — never evah evah evah sign up to a credit or debit (or any other card) which only supports being used via the tokenizers (e.g. Apple Pay). I would have told Putin to disallow that practice for Russian banks, but he never asked. Too late now. Apple and Google have had to block Apple Pay and Google Pay in Russia (their virtual wallets demand geolocation data to authorise a transaction). So even internal network cards which are virtual card only are inop now.

Russian economy will be having to adjust to a fairly substantial cut-over to cash-only. In order to avoid money supply cratering (M0 / MB) causing a similar collapse in the velocity of money, the Russian Central Bank will need to have the means of increasing the availability of physical cash (which is both the notes and coins in the vault and the ability to get them into circulation i.e. ATM capacity / replenishment logistic / tellers at banks and the like). That’s for roubles. If people end up de facto dollerising, that’s out of their hands.

Needless to say, most Russians can forget about travel even if they wanted to go to, say, Turkey. It’s going to be extremely messy to carry that much currency, even assuming being able to convert roubles. However, the Russian become substantially dollarized during the early 1990s rout and only since about 2000 was the rouble seen as a decent currency. Most (all?) banks offer dollar accounts. It’s a reasonable guess that the big ATM withdrawals over the weekend were first of dollars. It would seem less likely that the Visa/Mastercard freeze was as widely anticipated.

Reuters reports that crypto sales to rouble buyers are way up even as Urkaine is calling for Russian crypto wallets to be seized. From LiveMint:

Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said on Twitter that he was asking “all major crypto exchanges to block addresses of Russian users.” He had earlier solicited information about digital wallets associated with Russian and Belorussian politicians, saying that the Ukrainian crypto community was ready to offer a “generous reward” to anyone who provided tips.

PlutoniumKum pointed out that Euros could also serve as currency:

While we focus on dollars for obvious reasons, I wonder how many large denomination Euro cash bills are sitting under Russian beds just awaiting this type of emergency. Given its ease of use across the large land border between Russia and Europe, I wonder if these notes will become the de facto emergency currency.

As a reminder, not everyone thinks that the West lowering the dollar hammer gives it the winning hand. For a contrasting view, an article we posted in Links by staunch Tory and Russiaphobe Ambrose Evans-Prithcard argues that Russia’s large market share in many key commodities will enable Russia to deliver more pain to Europe than it can inflict on Russia.

Needless to say, in theory we could know more over the next week, but the reporting in the West is so focused on depicting the Russians as weak and failing that the risk of yet again underestimating Russia’s current capabilities remains a big part of the equation.


1 From Clive:

The technical requirement is to take the source control file (HTML version here and do an xml translation against the core systems to map the Sanctioned Designated Name against any product holdings (bank accounts, card PANs, wealth management portfolios… a big list even just for retail, a lot more convoluted for trading) so you can apply block flags to prevent transaction processing (or whatever treatment is applicable).

U.K. government has updated with Friday’s list, but still waiting for the new list (Sunak inflicted a load of invective and huffing and puffing on us all just now when all we wanted to really know, in terms of the industry trying to do their bidding as they want us to do not parse a load of politicking, was where the bloody SDN is):

The UK Government will immediately take all necessary steps to bring into effect restrictions to prohibit any UK natural or legal persons from undertaking financial transactions involving the CBR, the Russian National Wealth Fund, and the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation. The UK Government intends to make further related designations this week, working alongside our international partners.

It’s the designations (the updated SDN) we are waiting for which is why I’ve highlighted that bit, the rest is piffle. Once we have the SDN, the xml translation is easy peasy lemon squeezy as a systems change. The yucky bit is processing (a manual job) the resultant report the core systems generate where there’s partial matches or a lot of de-duping to work through to make sure you don’t block the wrong party (unfortunately it does happen, Mrs. Jones at number 47 The Larches getting flagged as an international terrorist when she uses her debit card at Sainsbury’s) but don’t miss anyone you want to block.

A week, maybe a little less, this is top priority, once we get the SDN. (can’t emphasise that last point enough).

Other institutions may take longer. We’re pretty hopeless but this is BAU (albeit a big change by BAU standards), to be fair there has been a little thought by governments as to how we can as a practical matter turn their policy into real-world execution. This method allows some granularity by repurposing a system (SDN) to upscale it across a large swathe of pretty huge entities while allowing exceptions within those entities. The original “cut Russia off from SWIFT” was the kind of dumb thing politicians say when they are blissfully ignorant of how those of us who have to make their dreams a reality are suppose to do that.

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  1. chubby czecha

    Lots of customers in eastern EU have lost access to their bank accounts, because the European Sberbank subsidiaries are all shuttered. The ECB expects them to fail, and all deposits over the insured threshold will be lost.

      1. Sausage Factory

        its happening all over Europe, Opera singers, ballet tours, the EU sure wants to isolate itself and cut itself off from culture. They sure are bad losers, must have picked it up off the Americans. They never learn, Russians will just knuckle down, hate the West and move east. The West simply doesn’t understand Russia and Russians, nor their mentality. liberalism has never taken significant hold in Russia, or the east generally, this will not persuade them to take up the banner. Once it gets personal, and from such a bunch of warmongering, genocidal hypocrites as the US and NATO and the corrupt money laundering British, they’ll just cut them off in perpetuity. The West will lose out in the long run, Putin will stay and the economy will recover via Eurasian solidarity and their relationship with China.

  2. Dave in Austin

    At the rate things are going there will be an armistice before the SWIFT closure takes effect.

    On Ukrainian EU membership and peace talks from the Guardian we have we have some good news:

    “A second round of talks between Russia and Ukraine has been scheduled for tomorrow, the Russian state news agency Tass has cited a source on the Russian side as saying.”

    “Hungary’s foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, said Hungary was supporting an initiative by eight European Union leaders to start membership talks with Ukraine. In an open letter published yesterday, the presidents of three Baltic states, as well as Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Slovenia called on EU member states to immediately grant Ukraine EU candidate country status and open membership talks.”

    And according to Macron, Putin said his minimal demands were a neutral Ukraine and Russian retention of the Crimea. The breakaway regions in the east were conspicuously absent from his demands, so the “territorial integrity of the Ukraine” (minus the Crimea) seems a given.

    So expect a quiet day, with the Russians building up their forces around Kiev and “only” a few dead from Russian missile strikes designed to keep Zeninskyy focused on the peace conference.

    These are the important things I have to say, but here are some interesting details from the military side:

    The headlines in the Guardian are “Russia strikes Karkov government HQ…” although the actual missile strike shown at has it hit where it was probably aimed, at the street in front of the government headquarters. Not that this is any consolation to the persons in the cars driving by on the street. We have no idea what happened to them. I remember having the same feeling when a US cruise missile went into the middle of a Serbian government building in that episode. I’d hate to have been a secretary there. And remember the US cruise missile that hit the car in Baghdad- then the second missile that took out the ambulance crew that came for the injured? Strong powers want to intimidate weak powers with the minimum force necessary. But that still kills “only a few” people, as in the Pentagon on 9/11.

    The Guardian also reported that Russian troops coming from the east via Sumy had crossed the last river barrier and had “passed through” Nova Basan, 37 miles from Kiev on the main highway. These forces will probably invest Kiev from the south.

    It is too late for the best Ukrainian units to withdraw from Donetsk to help defend Kiev. The Russians passed through Melitopol and the civil authorities surrendered on Feb. 25th although there are still local national guard units opposing the Russians. An amazing video, (third one down) at,, shows a Ukrainian at an intersection trying to wave down and stop the passing Russian recon vehicles while the recon vehicles drive around him and pedestrians walk by. Amazing footage along with the rest of the Melitipol footage (see the town on wikipedia for links).

    “All we are saying is give peace a chance”

    1. Ignacio

      Give Ukraine EU membership? Because war? Without complying any single requirement? This is only posturing that coming from the Hungarian state can be interpreted as a a tool to disintegrate the EU.

    2. Paradan

      the strike at Karkov you saw was at an Azov recruiting station out front. The recruitment drive was to start at 10:00AM, so the Russains hit it at 8:00AM to avoid mass casualties. Not sure if the car occupants made it.

    3. Brian Beijer

      I really don’t think Putin would throw the two independent regions under the bus only days after going on TV and recognizing them. There’s just no way.
      In my opinion, any news about Russia coming from any Western country is just 5 Eyes propaganda. Completely untrustworthy BS. I’ve resorted to RT and Sputnik news to get some understanding of what’s happening. They’re both obviously pro-Russian, but WAY more objective than the Guardian, CNN, etc. At least with RT, you know an event actually happened, even if you’re getting a biased account of it. With Western media, you can’t even be guaranteed that the event actually happened.

      1. David

        With Ukraine disarmed and the nationalists gone, the threat to the two regions will have largely evaporated, and the Russians will be just across the border watching. Minsk or something like it will presumably be part of the deal.

      2. David

        With Ukraine disarmed and the nationalists gone, the threat to the two regions will have largely evaporated, and the Russians will be just across the border watching. Minsk or something like it will presumably be part of the deal.

      3. vao

        At least in Youtube, Sputnik and RT channels are now censored. One can still search for them, but when attempting to access them, Youtube simply displays the message “this channel is not available in your country”.

        1. jrkrideau

          I still get both here in Canada though I seem to need the Yandex browser to get RT English. French Yandex is fine in Chrome.

          It seems a bit ironic that those who claim that Russia censors everything is censoring Russian news sources.

  3. Ignacio

    Unfortunately my brain is not ready even to try to understand the intricacies of payment systems. Anyway, nice to know that we can solve the Ukrainian crisis harming those who are not responsible.

    Has this any chance to stop troops or missiles? Will this force negotiations? Will change Russia’s stance?

  4. cobo

    “the Russian Central Bank will need to have the means of increasing the availability of physical cash”
    or, it could be the perfect time to roll out the Central Bank Digital Currency – the fog of war is a great time for changes to be made

    1. Melkiades

      Central Bank Digital Currency is the wrong solution, in Russia or elsewhere, and is only put forward to fight the decentralization and borderless flow of money Bitcoin and other fully decentralized cryptos bring. I am always stunned that this community, which I adore and appreciate for its ability to understand politics, hasn’t figured out that a situation like the current one where VISA and MC are blocked, would be irrelevant if Bitcoin was legal tender. Decentralization is the solution.

    2. Andrey Subbotin

      Reporting from Moscow: was in a bank today, there were euros but not dollars in atm, which is normal here – cash dollars are hardly ever used. Slightly more people than normal, but nothing resembling panic.

      My bank sent its clients a mail basically repeating your points – SWIFT is a messaging system, there are other options, but might be a bit slower.

      As I understand it, sanctioned banks will lose ability to issue Visa/MasterCard. It is weird that some banks are sanctioned, and some are not with no apparent consistency.

      We just published a law that forces all exporters to sell 80% of their foreign currency profits on forex. I guess that means that rouble remains a floating currency for now, but that’s sudden and radical.

      Also, sale of shares of russian companies held by foreighners is now blocked. Basically, if UK starts confiscating Russian property, BP loses its shares in Rosneft etc.

  5. Stove Goblin

    Sanctions are buying time, not pressure. The longer the Russian army continues as planned in this unforced error, the higher the cost of extrication. For example, the Russians had two transport planes shot down in succession south of Kyiv, 200 crack airborne troops killed, because despite knowing an airfield had not been secured, the planes continued their mission and tried to land anyway. In other armies, an officer would improvise and decide to have the plane orbit until the all clear. Not Putin’s army; there is no such latitude.

    Putin knows he gambled and lost. This is why he took direct command of his nuclear weapons. So his generals, who understand this intelligence failure better than anyone, some of them dead men already, wouldn’t conspire to liquidate him without bringing down the domes on top of them. Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and now Putin, all have had their generals turn on them.

    1. Anthony G Stegman

      There is zero evidence that two Russian transport planes were shot down in quick succession. What is your source?

    2. ambrit

      Hmmm… ‘Unforced error.’ That assumes quite a lot. Such as the “resistance” of the Ukranian Army can continue for much longer, or the people rise up en masse and do a Paris Commune in Kiev. If the Southern Cauldron can be carried out to the end, that takes roughly a half of the Ukraine’s army out of the picture. Plus, you don’t notice that the Russians have air superiority? As American Adventures of recent memory show, that alone is half the way to winning a ‘modern’ war.
      And curiously, I have not heard before that Gorbachov and Yeltsin were deposed by a military coup. In a related note, there are a lot of Generals in the American military who are at odds with the Administration’s foreign policy, yet they have not, to my knowledge, overthrown the Administration. Russian officers are every bit as patriotic and rules oriented as their American cousins.
      If we were Putin, we would amp up the nuclear deterrent too. Anybody know what Defcon level America is at today?

      1. Paradan

        I dont think use the DEFCON system anymore. It was mostly a bomber thing.(and liquid fueled rockets?)

      2. Stove Goblin

        Gorbachev was placed under house arrest at his dacha by the KGB and Yeltsin barricaded himself in the Duma’s HQ while tanks shot the building until the soldiers started ignoring orders.

        1. Andrey Subbotin

          Er, not quite. Yeltsin was the one giving the order to shoot at Duma.
          In general there is a strong tradition of military being apolitical in Russia. When there is a conflict inside political elite, military willy nilly has to take a side, but you have to go into 18th century history to find military calling the shots.
          And anyway, military is fairly satisfied right now – they are on a roll, with few casualties. Whatever trouble is likely, is likely from economic problems. Or Nato entering fray.

          1. Kevin Walsh

            I think you guys are referring to different coups. There was the failed attempt by Soviet hardliners to overthrow Gorbachev in a coup, which Yeltsin helped resist.

            Subsequently, in a successful coup, Yeltsin dissolved the Duma with tanks.

  6. Moscow Mule

    I live in Moscow at the moment and thought it might be helpful to share a few observations:

    – For banks which have been added to the SDN list, Visa and Mastercard still works (within Russia only) for cards which were issued prior to imposition of the sanctions, but those banks are now unable to issue new cards with Visa or Mastercard
    – For banks which have been added to the sectoral sanctions list (e.g. Alfa bank), Visa and Mastercard work both abroad and within Russia (although I have heard conflicting reports about these cards being accepted overseas)
    – For foreign banks operating in Russia (e.g. Raiffeisenbank, Unicredit), no changes in functionality, however if you are using Apple Pay or Google Pay and the terminal is operated by an SDN bank, the transaction will not go through.

    Anecdotally, it appears that a majority of families have at least 1 card tied to the Mir payment system. I would expect there has been a significant uptake over the past week. It is worth pointing out that Mir card is also accepted in Turkey in many places – it is fair to assume Turkey will be anticipating a significant uptick in Russian tourists this year, particularly if the EU flight bans remain in effect. Turkey is already one of the most popular tourist destinations for Russians.

    The Russian central bank may have its hands tied in how much it can support the Rouble directly, but the Rouble has also received a boost from capital controls introduced over the weekend. In particular, currency residents of Russia are precluded from sending hard currency to foreign bank accounts, and companies based in Russia are now required to convert 80% of hard currency income into Roubles.

    1. Greg

      Thank you for this comment, the real-world contextualisation of the banking sanction effects is greatly appreciated.

  7. amodestproposal

    Swift actions will of course be leaky – Russia is big and sophisticated in financial matters. It will be one thing if there is a set of sanctions and not continuously adapted / tightened, another if just one and done.
    My understanding (fairly widely reported in Russian) is that the central bank leaned on many companies with large dollar balances to purchase rubles, essentially stepping in to intervene in place of the central bank. Obviously the questions this raises is how long they can sustain that (if needed), whether the companies lose money/how much, and whether they need to replace those dollars later. I don’t know the answers.
    And note, I think perfectly rational that they’d do this – key in short term is to stabilize. The pattern in previous crises has been a short period of extreme volatility with ruble ‘collapsing’, some overshooting – depending on what measure you use – and then stabilizing within a new, lower band. This has been severe and looks different than previous crises, with ‘no end in sight’ – but then that’s the nature of the beast, really, it always seems that way.
    Russia’s core central bank and govt finances / debt / markets teams have over several crises shown they can adapt to pretty severe challenges. This is the first time they’ve been doing so where international (central) banking are mostly lined up against them. (They worked quite closely in eg 2008).

      1. Greg

        It’s possible IL-76’s were lost, but given the tip top performance of the ua security service propaganda, we would almost certainly have seen bragging video by now.

        Big planes leave big chunks. The biggest planes we know have been lost so far are AN-26’s (still big!). Lost by both sides.

        This compiled verified list is pretty good, although using it as data is not advisable because it relies on available photos and the fog of war is a pea-souper right now. Likely skewed towards overstating ru losses because ru propaganda is a lot thinner on the ground than ua propaganda so far (signs that is changing).

        P.S. another banging Clive post – I should have known the sanctions talk would result in banking IT project misery

  8. Code Name D

    I hate to say it. But I find any notion that this is going to be a short lived conflict to be hard to agree with. A cold war got started when Clinton lost the election, blaming it on Russian interference. Now – there is effectively a state of war between the US and Russia, and the rest of the world is just along for the ride. It was the main reason why there was so much skepticism that Putin would invade in the first place, because he would play into the warmonger’s narrative if he did. There are to many Republicans and Democrats that think they want to relive the glory days of WWII & the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Hell, many Democrats I talk two seem to have forgotten that the Soviet Union ever collapsed and that we are still fighting Communists.

    We are at war with Eurasia, we have always been at war with Eurasia.

    However, I observe that the nature of “war” has changed radically, and that the economic section is as much a tool of war as any cannon or warship. While too many in Congress, and perhaps Putin as well, think they are still fighting the last war. Then again, is there anything left for us to sanction? We have been fighting this economic war for a decade now. It was all so clean and bloodless. Kind of like Star Trek and A Taste of Armageddon. Putin’s true sin is that he shattered the illusion.

    1. JohnA

      The new cold war predates russiagate, think Obama we are the indispensible nature, Nuland fuck the EU and we’ve invested 5 billion in Ukraine, all well before La Clinton lost to Trump

  9. Anton Yashin

    As far as i know, transactions that were blocked are transactions outside of Russia. In Russia all domestic transactions, including Visa and MasterCard transactions is processed via National Payment Card System ( Using NSPK is mandatory for any payment system that can work in Russia.

    ATM and banks got lot of cash week before operation is started. And there no problem to withdraw, deposit, send money or buy something using cards. Crimea including.

  10. Dave in Austin

    More news about the Ukraine:

    In an interview with Reuters, Ukraine President Zelenskyy said:

    “”Our partners, if they are not ready to take Ukraine into NATO … because Russia does not want Ukraine to be in NATO, should work out common security guarantees for Ukraine…This means that we have our territorial integrity, that our borders are protected, we have special relations with all our neighbours, we are completely safe, and the guarantors that give us security, they guarantee this legally.”

    Interesting. It explains one of the sticking points at the Monday meeting; “if not NATO, what are the security guarantees for the Ukraine?” Zelenskyy names 1) territorial integrity, 2) border protection, 3) “special relations with all our neighbors”, 4) legal guarantees that give the Ukraine security.

    All valid and somewhat complicated issues. Putin seems, according to Macron, to agreed to “territorial integrity”, meaning the original borders including the breakaway regions minus the Crimea. “All neighbors” suggests that all bordering countries must share in the treaty guarantees, which is a good idea. The US is not a neighbor. The US news reports have headlines that say “Zelinskyy says stop the bombing before negotiations” but he has said no such thing.

    What goes around comes around. Yesterday I mentioned the Serbian TV studio that the US missile hit killing 20-or-so people. I failed to mention that we also hit the main TV tower in Belgrade. All the Warsaw Pact countries got almost identical stressed concrete or steel towers. There are examples in East Berlin, Serbia, Kiev and in non-Soviet Canada. So Russia did today what the US did in Serbia; take out the TV tower because in was “Broadcasting propaganda.”

    One amusing tidbit is about “let the Ukraine into the EU now!”. Big cheers from all the eastern European countries that get money from the EU transfer system. The Ukraine will be a big beneficiary. And who pays? Why the rich guys, Germany, France, the Netherlands and to a lesser degree Spain and Italy, all of whom have been discretely silent on the subject. Turkey, which is in NATO, has been asking for years to enter the EU. This is a non-starter. Freedom for 90 million high-birth-rate Moslems to immigrate to the Netherlands, France, Germany- and Poland and Hungary? No way. But the Turkish prime minister yesterday did sarcastically ask “Can we be put on the agenda for a quick entry into the EU if we get attacked?”

    1. Robert Dudek

      Calling for Ukraine entering EU is just symbolism. No one jumps the queue and Ukraine was about 30 years away and will be 50-60 years away from qualifying after this war is over.

    2. Foy

      “should work out common security guarantees for Ukraine” (Zelensky)

      Putin for 13+ years has been saying that security is indivisible, that security for one means security for all, you can’t have security for one and not for the other, until he is blue in the face but no one was interested at all in talking with him about that. Read his speeches, he continually talked about security for all and developing economic ties.

      And now finally Ukraine are asking for common security guarantees to be worked out?! Man, it does my head in. Where was this request for the last umpteen years? Its been on the table the whole time if they would only actually converse with Russia. But obviously NATO US put a stop to that (there shall be no further economic ties) and here we are

  11. Wukchumni

    While we focus on dollars for obvious reasons, I wonder how many large denomination Euro cash bills are sitting under Russian beds just awaiting this type of emergency. Given its ease of use across the large land border between Russia and Europe, I wonder if these notes will become the de facto emergency currency.

    One interesting thing that came out of the woodwork (oh so true, that) after the fall of the USSR was 1882 and 1922 USA $100 Gold Certificate banknotes in circulated condition, and as the currency was about 40% larger back then, they are nicknamed ‘Horseblankets’.

    I’m talking on the order of 500 to 1,000 of these hitting the market in 1992-93.

  12. Fraibert

    I know it’s old fashioned and creates its own sorts of problems, but I can’t help but wonder if Russia might start backing the Rouble with one or more precious metals, not only its fairly substantial gold holdings but also perhaps using its substantial amounts of Silver, Palladium, and Platinum. The consequences of such action are beyond my full understanding but it seems like it could at least provide short term domestic stability.

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