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Biting Russian tourists in Indonesia without cash as sanctions

Visitors are seen at a cafe frequented by Russians in the Badung Regency of Bali
Visitors are seen at a cafe frequented by Russians in Badung Regency, Bali, Indonesia March 8, 2022. Picture taken March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Sultan Anshori NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.

March 10, 2022

By Sultan Anshori

KUTA, Indonesia (Reuters) – When Russian tourist Konstantin Ivanov tried to withdraw money from his home account at an ATM on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, the transaction was blocked.

Unprecedented sanctions on Russia’s banks over its invasion of Ukraine are taking a toll on its citizens abroad, who are struggling to make ends meet in search of cash or crypto transactions.

“That presented us with a huge problem. We’re completely deprived of our finances – it’s like they’re totally frozen and we can’t use them here at all,” said Ivanov, 27, adding that he may need to look for a job in Indonesia.

Bali is a popular holiday destination with Russian tourists, who flocked to the island in the tens of thousands before the pandemic and were among the first to return when borders partially reopened last year.

According to the statistics office, about 1,150 Russians entered Indonesia in January 2022.

Rifki Saldi Yanto, the manager of a local cafe, said he’s noticed a drop in Russian customers in recent days, and many are now paying with cash instead of credit cards.

The Russian embassy in Jakarta said it offers information and assistance to any citizen facing problems.

Denis Tetiushin, an embassy spokesman, said Russia’s Pochta Bank now offers a virtual card using China’s UnionPay system instead of Visa or Mastercard.

“It’s free and people can open it wherever they are,” he said in a text message.

Meanwhile, more than 7,000 Russians were stranded in Thailand, another popular beach destination, due to canceled flights, a free-fall ruble currency and payment problems. [L3N2VB1KZ]

Russia’s economy is facing its worst crisis since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, after Western countries took steps to isolate Russia from the global financial system in recent days. The international payments system SWIFT has disconnected several Russian banks from its network, while Visa and Mastercard said they will block the use of their cards issued by Russian banks abroad from March 9.

(Reporting by Sultan Anshori in Bali and Stanley Widianto in Jakarta; Additional reporting by Pedja Stanisic and Sunil Kataria; Writing by Angie Teo; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor, Alexandra Hudson and Ed Davies)

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Bobby Allyn

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