Russian parliament approves homegrown credit card system

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia's lower house of parliament on Friday approved the creation of a national credit card system, seen as a bid to reduce dependance on the West amid the threat of sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.

Lawmakers in the State Duma gave speedy approval in second and third readings within a day of the project that has already been blessed by President Vladimir Putin who is keen to shed the dependance of Russian economy on Western systems.

Mr Putin said last month that such a system should be introduced in Russia, after the United States blacklisted several banks, notably those affiliated with Bank Rossiya, describing it as a "personal bank" for Russian senior officials.

The banks saw their customers barred from using Visa and MasterCard credit cards last month.

On Thursday Mr Putin said Visa and MasterCard are "susceptible to very strong political influence and immediately bend under pressure". However he stopped short of saying that Visa and MasterCard would somehow be "punished".

Russia's plan to make its own payment system should have the companies worried, he added, since they would lose "huge business" in the country.

MasterCard said in a statement quoted by Russian agencies that the bill "brings out deep concern" and the company is evaluating the possible fallout of the bill once it is adopted after approval by the upper house and the president's signature.