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PayPal, Visa, Mastercard suspend Russian services

TikTok, Netflix and major games houses also quit, but Ukraine wants more help from Microsoft, Amazon, Apple and Google

More big technology industry players have cut off services to Russia, in protest at its illegal invasion of Ukraine and a new media law imposed to stop the flow of news from the war zone.

Credit card giants Visa and Mastercard have each suspended their Russian operations. Mastercard's announcement states its decision means "cards issued by Russian banks will no longer be supported by the Mastercard network. And, any Mastercard issued outside of the country will not work at Russian merchants or ATMs." Mastercard Russia will nonetheless keep its people on the books and continue to pay them and provide benefits. Russian banks are reportedly looking to work with Chinese credit card outfits to circumvent the suspensions.

Visa's announcement states that its efforts will mean "all transactions initiated with Visa cards issued in Russia will no longer work outside the country and any Visa cards issued by financial institutions outside of Russia will no longer work within the Russian Federation."

PayPal has weighed in, too. CEO Dan Schulman took to LinkedIn, where he shared an email he sent to staff that announced a suspension of services.

All three financial services companies were already required to stop dealing with Russian banks because of government-imposed sanctions, and did so last week. The new bans, which impact consumers, are not required by sanctions and were instead imposed as acts of conscience.

TikTok's ban on live streaming is both a protest and a necessity. Late last week Russia passed laws that, as of Saturday, make it an offence even to refer to events in Ukraine as a war. Moscow instead describes it is a "special military operation". Disagreeing can earn media 15 years in a Russian prison.

Netflix has also suspended its Russian service, although its reasons are not clear. Another new Russian law requires video streaming companies with over 100,000 customers in Russia to carry 20 state-controlled channels and Netflix previously refused to do so.

Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine's vice prime minister and minister for digital transformation, has been active on Twitter where he called for Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, and Google to do more. Fedorov called for app stores to be shut down, GitHub access denied to Russia, and for Skype and Teams to be shuttered. Last week, Fedorov called for Sony and Microsoft to suspend accounts of Russians on the PlayStation Network and XBOX communities.

That hasn't happened, but three big games publishers – Activision Blizzard, Epic Games, and EA Sports – have suspended sales of games and content. EA has suspended virtual currency bundles, too.

Alex Bornyakov, Ukraine's deputy minister for digital transformation, wants more tech companies to weigh in. He told Japanese outlet Nikkei he has a list of 70 he hopes will assist his country's cause – among them the cryptocoin named Tether that's backed by crypto exchange Bitfinex.

Bornyakov has also detailed extensive donations of cryptocurrency to Ukraine and invited more.


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