Bybit continues to serve Russians despite Western sanctions

abdelaziz Fathi

Bybit will continue to serve Russian users, breaking ranks with mainstream finance and global regulators in a decision that weakens Western attempts to isolate Moscow following the invasion of Ukraine.

Despite orders issued this week by Singapore’s central bank that require licensed crypto platforms to comply with sanctions, Bybit said it is headquartered and registered in Dubai. As such, the exchange continues, it doesn’t discriminate against crypto users based on their location and passport.

A Bybit representative was quoted as saying that its staff is working hard to guarantee that all users have access to its platform equally and that “their funds are secure as well as the greatest trading experience.”

With Russia facing international economic sanctions, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said pro-Russian groups are raising funds in cryptocurrency to support paramilitary operations and evade US sanctions. Citing research done by blockchain forensics companies Chainalysis and TRM Labs, the MAS said cryptocurrencies have emerged as an ideal avenue for Russians to turn around sanctions that were meant to cut off their country from the global financial system.

Some crypto exchanges argued that cutting off all Russians, including those not targeted by sanctions, would run counter to the cryptocurrency’s ethos of offering access to payments free of government oversight.

The news comes shortly after Binance’s sanctions executive said last week that the exchange needs more clarity over the recent sanctions targeting Russian users.

Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Binance blocked the accounts of Russian individuals who have been sanctioned, but it did not unilaterally freeze the accounts of all Russian users.

Most crypto exchanges, including Binance, initially rejected calls for a blanket ban on all Russian users to stop their platforms from being used as a way round Western sanctions. Ultimately, however, they had to comply with sanctions as the US and European regulators said that diverging from mainstream finance would weaken their attempts to isolate Moscow.

In October, the EU tightened an already prohibition on providing digital-asset services to Russia. It has imposed a sweeping ban on providing crypto services to Russians, meaning they won’t be able to hold any assets in EU crypto wallets unless they live in the bloc. Before the recent rules, European crypto providers were allowed to provide Russian residents and entities with limited crypto payments of up to 10,000 euros.

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