Russian lender VTB has begun merchant acquiring for Alipay payments service in its POS-device network.

Ant Financial, an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba that operates Alipay, in a statement said that the partnership makes VTB the biggest Alipay partner in Russia.

The service will be piloted this month, with a rollout to around 100,000 merchants of VTB planned in the third to fourth quarter of 2017.

VTB24, the retail banking unit of VTB, estimates Alipay to be in high demand in Moscow, St Petersburg, Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Blagoveshchensk and Irkutsk.

VTB24 VP and director of merchant acquiring department Alexey Kirichek said: “Potential volume of this market is approximately 300 billion rubles per year. Average ticket size of Alipay users is 2-3 times higher than in other payment methods, hence we expect high demand for the new service from merchants.”

Alipay business development director for Russia Bogdan Zadorozhny said: “For Alipay, it’s very important to get support from one of the largest banks in Russia. Large-scale acceptance of Alipay on the whole POS infrastructure of VTB24 will allow us to speed up and facilitate the launch of our service at merchants and enable country level coverage.”