Several Russian banks, including some subject to Western sanctions, will next week begin testing the country's new card payments system, designed to take on Visa and MasterCard.
The National Payment System (NPS) is being built at the behest of President Vladimir Putin in response to US and EU sanctions over the summer which saw MasterCard and Visa cut off services to several of the country's banks.
SMP Bank and Rossiya Bank, both of which were hit by sanctions, are among a group of eight that will begin piloting the system on 15 December NPS boss Vladimir Komlev has told Rossiya 24 TV.
Gazprombank, Rosbank, Alfa Bank, Ural Bank for Reconstruction and Development and VTB are also working with vendor Russian Openway Solutions on the testing, which will use existing formats and not require any software reconfiguration, says Komlev.
According to local reports, the platform is set to become fully operational in the first quarter of next year, with all Visa and MasterCard transactions being processed through it. Towards the end of next year, NPS will start issuing its own cards.
Putin's determination to reduce Russia's dependence on Western financial systems has also seen the country's central bank vow to build an international inter-bank payment system rival to Swift by next May.