KUALA LUMPUR, April 27 – Malaysia’s diaspora in Russia today expressed concerns over their ability to send and receive funds, as financial institutions in the Russian Federation buckle under tough sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine.
In March, the European Union removed seven Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system, effectively excluding the banks from the world’s most dominant messaging system used for global financial transactions.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah said there is a growing fear among Malaysians in Russia that the restrictions will eventually clamp down on a small number of banks that have yet to be affected by the sanctions.
“Most of our people in Russia are now using electronic fund transfer offered by the UnionPay network for their transactions. While this service is still available, not all the banks allow them today,” he told reporters after a virtual conference with some 270 Malaysian students and expatriates living in Russia.
“There is also the concern of how far and for how long more their UnionPay debit cards can be used.”
Saifuddin said his ministry will discuss with Bank Negara Malaysia on options available to Malaysians in Russia should there be any disruption to the UnionPay service.
He said Malaysia’s ambassador to Russia, Datuk Bala Chandran Tharman, has been instructed to discuss the matter with Russian authorities.
Saifuddin said he was also made to understand that some banks operating in Malaysia have refused to offer the UnionPay service to locals planning to travel to Russia.
“We will investigate this matter. We will contact these banks and discuss this,” he said.
There are presently 779 students and 37 expatriates in Russia registered with the Malaysian embassy, but there are likely more who have yet to register themselves, Saifuddin said.
“I urge all Malaysians in Russia to please register with our embassy in Moscow. This is extremely important, as you will be constantly updated in terms of security or any other matters concerning your welfare,” he said.