PUTRAJAYA, April 26 — The Foreign Ministry (Wisma Putra) will discuss with Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) on other options for Malaysians in Russia in case they are unable to make financial transactions due to sanctions on banks in the country.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah said for now, 816 Malaysians in the country, comprising 779 students and 37 expatriates, could still make financial transactions with several Russian banks that conduct Union Pay services.
However, he said they were worried if the banks concerned could no longer provide the service.
“While they can use Union Pay, let’s say there are three banks that should be able to carry out the transactions, but not necessarily all three banks conduct the Union Pay transactions as they should be.
“Therefore, there are concerns as to how far and how long debit cards that use the Union Pay network can be continued,” he told reporters after holding a video conference with 270 Malaysians in Russia, here, today.
Also present at the video conference were Malaysian Ambassador to Russia Datuk Bala Chandran Tharman, Embassy adviser (Education) Abdul Aziz How Abdullah, Consul (Education) Fadzil Noor Samiran and embassy officials.
Apart from that, Saifuddin said although Malaysians were still allowed to travel to Russia, those who wanted to go there at this time either to continue their studies or work, may face difficulties in opening a Union Pay account in Malaysia prior to going to the country.
Saifuddin said Wisma Putra in collaboration with the Malaysian Embassy in Moscow was always in touch with the Russian government and the Russian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to monitor the situation in the country.
“Their currency (Ruble) seems to be rising and the inflation rate is also rising. Usually, by summer there will be an increase in the price of goods, but we are worried that if mixed with the increase in prices due to the sanctions, it may cause difficulties especially for students with limited finances because many go there at their own expense,” he said.
Saifuddin also called on Malaysians in the country who have not yet registered with the embassy to do so immediately to facilitate the delivery of information, including on security and banking matters.
“Often when Malaysians go abroad, we are not required to register with the embassy, but if we reside, work or study there, we should register because we do not know what will happen.
“For example when the Covid-19 outbreak started in China, the first week of the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) meeting, the number of Malaysians in China was 30,000, the second week 70,000, the third week 120,000, so that means people register if there is a need and now in Russia there is indeed a need to register,” he said.
According to Saifuddin, there are parents of students who ask if their children could return home and continue their studies in Malaysia, but this depends on the cooperation between Malaysian and Russian universities.
“If there is mutual recognition among the universities, involving applications and credit transfers, it can be implemented, but it depends on the universities,” he said.
He added that most of the students were continuing their studies in medicine, engineering and aviation.
Russia has been subjected to various economic sanctions, including by the United States and the European Union, following its military operations on Ukraine since February 24.
Following the sanctions, some Malaysians in the country faced disruptions in accessing banking and financial services such as Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) from Malaysia to their accounts with certain banks in the Russian Federation. — Bernama