Turkey, banks ATM

Russians open accounts in Turkey to save their savings

Many Russians travel to Turkey for vacations or to escape military service. Now, opening an account in Turkey allows them to evade sanctions.

The number of bank accounts opened by Russians in Turkey has skyrocketed in recent weeks, as citizens of Russia try to find ways to keep their savings safe and dodge sanctions imposed against their country following the invasion of Ukraine.

Turkey has been one of the favourite destinations for Russians for years, not only to spend their holidays, but also to establish their place of residence. Many Russians are moving to live in Turkey to escape compulsory military service in their country, or simply because of problems stemming from the economic crisis and the sanctions imposed against Russia.

Unlike private airlines like Pegasus, the Turkish state-owned airline Turkish Airlines maintains regular flights to Moscow from Istanbul; and while Turkey has closed the passage through the straits to warships in response to a request from Ukraine, for now it has not joined the sanctions against Russia imposed by the West.

This neutral position of the Ankara government, which made it possible for the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia to meet face to face in Antalya just a few days ago, for the first time since the start of the war, also makes Turkey a kind of “safe haven” for Russians who want to escape the problems in their country. Sources from the banking sector quoted by Turkish press say that in recent weeks the demand of Russian citizens who want to open bank accounts in Turkey has skyrocketed.

Opening an account in Turkey allows Russians to evade sanctions

In Russia, the Central Bank has limited the number of transactions abroad, and has suspended the foreign exchange market with the ruble until at least September 9, to avoid a total collapse of its currency; furthermore, Russian citizens are now prohibited from withdrawing more than $10,000 from foreign currency accounts in Russian banks, so any higher amount can only be withdrawn in rubles. Some harsh measures that are making life difficult for Russians, especially those who live outside Russia.

Any foreign citizen who wants to open a bank account in a Turkish bank needs to have a residence in Turkey, a tax number, a mobile phone number, and a valid passport. However, since the ruble is no longer a convertible currency, the Russians need to open accounts in Turkey in Turkish liras.

This however could be an advantage for the Russians. According to Turkish press, the lira offers two advantages to Russians residing in Turkey: on the one hand, it allows them to continue to have access to money with which they can pay for their expenses; and on the other hand, after opening an account in liras in a Turkish bank, they can open an account in foreign currencies, and therefore re-introduce themselves back in the international banking system.

The forecast is that the demand for Russian citizens opening accounts in Turkey to save their savings will continue to grow rapidly, given that everything indicates that the sanctions imposed by the West against Russia will last or even worsen over time, even if the war is over. In addition, the MIR card payment system used in Russia, vital after Visa and Mastercard left the country, can be used for transactions in Turkey through Turkish banks such as Vakıfbank, Ziraat Bankası or Iş Bank.