Moments ago the "absorption" of Crimea into the Russian Federation was completed after Putin signed the final previously passed by parliament. And with that, in less than a month, the Crimean "question" has been answered. The only question is whether Putin will stop here or will the ease with which he just expanded the Russian political map leave him hungry for more.
In other news, as part of the Western escalations against Russia, Bank Rossiya, the one bank exclusively identified in the sanctions list, announced that Visa and MasterCard have stopped, without notification, providing services for payment transactions for clients. Another bank that saw the drop of merchant credit card services was SMP bank, co-owned by brothers Boris and Arkady Rotenberg, who were also on the latest U.S. sanctions list.
SMP bank said in a statement that it considered the credit card giants' move unlawful, because the U.S. sanctions targeted shareholders and not the bank itself, Reuters reported Friday.
Earlier in the day, Bank Rossiya said it was working in a "stable regime" and was taking all the necessary legal measures to defend its rights and its clients' rights and legal interests.
"In connection with the information about U.S. sanctions being imposed on Rossiya we can report that the bank is working in a stable regime. The bank is meeting and will, without a doubt, fully meet all its obligations to its clients and partners," the bank said in a statement.
"The management of Rossiya understands the difficulties of clients in the current situation and will do all it can to solve them," the bank said in a statement.
These moves in turn promptly led to Putin announcing that he wants to open an account with the Bank Rossiya. From Moscow Times:
“I don't have an account there, but I will certainly open one there on Monday,” Putin said Friday, while speaking at a Security Council meeting, Interfax reported.
Putin later asked for his salary to be transferred to Bank Rossiya and ordered Russia's Central Bank to take the sanction-hit lender's clients under protection and provide all possible assistance to them, The Associated Press reported.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday announced that Washington was levying a new round of sanctions affecting 20 Russian officials and businessmen, but also Bank Rossiya, which is chaired and part owned by businessman Yuri Kovalchuk, who is one of the 20.
Why was the bank singled out?
The United States Treasury Department stated that Bank Rossiya is used by senior Russian officials and that its shareholders include members of Putin's inner circle.