R3 blockchain consortium does not welcome Sberbank due to sanctions against Russia

Maria Nikolova

Sberbank will not be able to join R3 because of sanctions against Russia, the bank was told unofficially at the stage of submitting an application.

Russian financial companies have been increasingly pushing into the world of blockchain technology, with Sberbank Rossii PAO (MCX:SBER) being one of the proponents of new financial solutions. Sberbank and the Linux Foundation entered into an agreement on the bank’s participation in the Hyperledger Project in September last year, but another attempt by the bank to join a blockchain community has hit the curb.

According to a report by Russian newspaper “Kommersant”, referring to a source familiar with the situation, R3 blockchain consortium has indicated to Sberbank that its application to join the consortium will not be approved, the reason for that being anti-Russian sanctions.

Back in December 2015, Lev A. Khasis, First Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board of Sberbank, told “Kommersant” that the bank had plans to join the R3 partnership, in order to work with majors like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Credit Suisse and Barclays to build and develop services based on blockchain.

Mr Khasis told the newspaper, however, that no official application was submitted with R3. According to the source of “Kommersant”, at the stage of filing the application for joining the consortium, R3 indicated unofficially that the bank will not be accepted as a member. Mr Khasis notes that the sanctions are not the single reason for the potential rejection – “the perception of Russia across the world is complicated”, he said. Sberbank has been affected by US sanctions against Russia since 2014.

Currently, R3 has one Russian company amid its members – Qiwi, which is not a bank.

Whereas the official stance of the Russian authorities regarding Bitcoin is still negative, the attitude towards blockchain and related technology has been more positive. Even Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev  has joined the ranks of the supporters of blockchain technology. Early in March this year, Mr Medvedev has instructed Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications and the Ministry of Economic Development to study the possible applications of blockchain technology during the preparation of the “Digital Economy” program.

Russia’s Finance Ministry seems to be easing its push for imposing harsh penalties for Bitcoin-related activities. In January this year, Russia’s Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Moiseyev said that the Bank of Russia and the Federal Financial Monitoring Service did not detect any threats associated with the use of crypto currencies. At that point, the implementation of the “anti-Bitcoin law” was put on hold.

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