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25 Jul 2023

RadioFreeEurrope RadioLiberty

Central Asian and Caucasus banks sever ties with Unistream amid U.S. sanctions and surge in Russian cash flows

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Banks in Central Asia, Caucasus Suspend Cooperation With Russia's Unistream, 25 July 2023

Several banks in Central Asia and the Caucasus have stopped working with the Russian money-transfer company Unistream after the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on the Moscow-based firm on July 20.

Kazakhstan's Kazpochta (Kazakh Post) and Nurbank said on July 24 that they had suspended, for an unspecified period, all operations with Unistream due to the sanctions. The move comes amid a dramatic increase in cash flows through Unistream from Russia to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, as well as to the South Caucasus countries of Armenia and Georgia.

Uzbekistan's People's bank, Kapital Bank, and Ipoteka Bank, as well as Kyrgyzstan's Kompanyon Bank, Finca Bank, RSK Bank, Kapital Bank, Halyk Bank, and Bank of Asia also announced that they had suspended operations linked to Unistream...

Unistream, along with the Contact and Zolotaya Korona (Golden Grown) money-transfer companies, have become major companies since international sanctions were imposed on Russia over Moscow's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine launched in February 2022.

In total, more than $2 billion was transferred from Russia to Georgia last year, a 403 percent jump over 2021. About $775 million was transferred from Russia to Kazakhstan in 2022, which is 579 percent higher than in the previous year...

Hundreds of thousands of Russians fled Russia for the former Soviet republics in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and other countries last year after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization to the war in Ukraine in September.