Central Bank of Russia says too early to talk about legalization of cryptocurrencies

Maria Nikolova

There is no unified position on the possible regulation of crypto-currencies in Russia, the “Megaregulator” said.


The Central Bank of Russia, or the so-called “Megaregulator” for Russia’s financial markets, has just provided a sobering comment regarding speculation that crypto-currencies may be legalized in the country as early as in 2018. The possible legal recognition of crypto-currencies like Bitcoin in Russia was suggested by Russia’s Deputy Finance Minister Alexey Moiseev in an interview with Bloomberg.

The words of Mr Moiseev created a wave of enthusiasm among crypto-currency fans in Russia, but the nation’s central bank has just poured cold water on all this. Maxim Grigoriev, Chief of the Centre for Financial Technologies at the Bank of Russia, told TASS news agency that it was too early to talk of legalization of crypto-currencies in Russia. He added that the status of crypto-currencies in Russia is still a subject of discussion for the Bank of Russia, the Ministry of Finance and the Federal Financial Monitoring Service (Rosfinmonitoring). There is no unified position on this, he said.

Back in 2014, the Bank of Russia issued its famous statement outlawing Bitcoin. But its stance has softened a bit since. In February 2016, for instance, the “Megaregulator” started warming up towards new technologies associated with virtual currencies and announced the establishment of a group engaged in the analysis of the innovations and promising technologies in the financial market. The list of priority study questions for the group includes new developments in the mobile and payment areas, as well as exploration of distributed ledger technologies (like blockchain).

Russia’s Ministry of Finance also seems to have made a u-turn towards embracing crypto-currencies. The positive comments by Mr Moiseev are in sharp contrast with earlier proposals by the Ministry to introduce harsh penalties for Bitcoin-related activities. These penalties include seven years of imprisonment, a ban from taking certain roles in the financial services sector, as well as fines of up to RUB 2.5 million.

In January 2017, however, Mr Moiseev said that Russia’s Central Bank and the Federal Financial Monitoring Service did not see any threats associated with the use of crypto-currencies. The implementation of the “anti-Bitcoin law” once proposed by the Ministry of Finance has been put to a halt.

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