Russian ministers plan blockchain tech legalization in 2019

Maria Nikolova

The Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications expects the legal provisions for the legalization of the DLT technologies like blockchain to be in place in 2019.

Russia’s authorities continue to warm up towards new financial technologies, with this change of attitude manifesting itself into plans, programs and deadlines. The latest such program is developed by Russia’s Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications.

According to a report by the TASS news agency, the Ministry schedules the adoption of legal provisions for distributed ledger technologies (such as blockchain) for 2019. The deadline is set in the “Digital Economy of the Russian Federation” program.

In March this year, Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev joined the ranks of the supporters of blockchain technology by instructing the Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications and the Ministry of Economic Development to examine the possible applications of the blockchain technology during the preparation of the “Digital Economy” program.

The stance of Russia’s Prime Minister is in tune with the growing support the blockchain technology has been receiving from various Russian businesses. For instance, earlier this year, Russian media reported that payments services provider Qiwi PLC (NASDAQ:QIWI) had set up a subsidiary called Qiwi Blockchain Technologies (QBT).

Some of the businesses keen to explore the potential of this technology, however, have experienced difficulties due to the international political climate. For example, R3 blockchain consortium has indicated to Sberbank that its application to join the consortium will not be approved due to anti-Russian sanctions.

Whereas blockchain technologies receive more support in Russia, the climate for bitcoin and other crypto-currencies is just starting to become milder. About one year ago, Russia’s Ministry of Finance was actively pushing for an “anti-bitcoin law”, which envisaged harsh penalties for bitcoin-related activities. This stance, however, has been changed, as in April this year Russia’s Deputy Finance Minister Alexey Moiseev said Russia may recognize bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in 2018 while the authorities seek to enforce rules against illegal transfers.

Soon after that statement was made, Maxim Grigoriev, Chief of the Centre for Financial Technologies at the Bank of Russia, made a more moderate announcement. He stressed it was too early to talk of legalizing crypto-currencies in Russia and 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). Thus far, he said, there is no unified position on this.

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