ApplePay – Apple’s digital wallet service – is no longer providing support to Russian banks following sanctions from the United States and its Western allies. Apps from Promsvyabank – a state-backed Russian bank – were also removed from the App Store.
Apple’s removal from Russian financial services was reported by Russian news agency RBC on Thursday. Three of Promsvyabank’s apps have disappeared from the Apple store: mobile banking, PBS investing and PBS business. Meanwhile, the Google Play Store also deleted the banking app, but not the latter two.
On Wednesday, Russia announced “special military operations” in Ukraine and began attacking the country’s military infrastructure soon after. A number of Western nations condemned the measure as an “invasion” and violation of international law, including the United States.
Yesterday, President Joe Biden announced US sanctions on four of Russia’s biggest banks in order to “limit Russia’s ability to do business in dollars, euros, pounds and yen to be part of the global economy”.
While the apps have been removed from Apple’s online store, their functionality will continue for customers who have already downloaded them.
In an email to corporate customers, PSB said it was trying to reinstall the PSB Business app from the Apple store. Those without the app were encouraged to use “PSB Internet Bank” on their website.
However, with the new sanctions, Promsvyabank’s access to the US financial system is completely cut off.
“All of their assets in US jurisdiction are frozen and US citizens and entities are prohibited from doing business with them without special permission from the Office of Foreign Asset Control,” the US Treasury Department said in a statement.
On Friday, Russia’s central bank also confirmed that Apple Pay and Google Pay will no longer be supported for users of debit and credit cards issued by sanctioned banks.
The role of cryptocurrency in the conflict
Cryptocurrency has been in the spotlight lately as a tool to easily send money across borders for political causes. Earlier this month, Bitcoin was being used to raise money for a protest movement in Canada, which banks were ordered not to attend by the Canadian government.
This week, the cryptocurrency was used to funnel more than $4.1 million in funds for the Ukrainian military to prevent the invasion of Russia. Meanwhile, one of Europe’s biggest mining pools has decided to stop serving Russian customers, showing solidarity with Ukraine. This could be disappointing for President Vladimir Putin, who had previously promoted cryptocurrency mining as a lucrative industry where Russia has “many advantages”.
However, this does not mean that cryptocurrency has chosen sides: some believe that Russia may start using cryptocurrency to circumvent international trade sanctions imposed on the nation. Putin also expressed interest in using Bitcoin for precisely this purpose in October and potentially for long-term oil trading.
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