To implement or not a blanket ban on Russians using our cryptocurrency exchange platform?
It’s been a serious and deeply depressing conversation that we’ve been having in recent days. It comes as concerns are aired that digital currencies will be used to bypass sanctions, meaning the West’s attempts to isolate Vladmir Putin will be compromised as he continues his attack on Ukraine.
One US-based global exchange has just announced that it is currently blocking 25,000 cryptocurrency addresses linked to Russians.
It follows news that American Express is joining Visa, Mastercard and PayPal in suspending operations in Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.
However, we have decided to take a different approach.
A few hundred, named Russian individuals are on the international sanctions list and, of course, we strictly adhere to it.
But, we’re not going to roll-out a blanket ban on ordinary, innocent Russian users, many of whom are already suffering due to the fallout of Putin’s war.
The situation is inevitably going to get worse, with potentially devastating consequences, as they’re frozen out of the financial system. We strongly believe that everyone should be allowed access to basic financial services.
We’ve seen countless examples in recent days of how cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, are helping ordinary families in Ukraine either flee or somehow better manage the tragic situation inside the country.
We feel that ordinary Russians – also caught up in this nightmare – deserve borderless, permissionless, censorship-resistant and unconfiscatable monetary alternatives too.
We’re against Putin’s war – and he should be punished – but not the Russian people. We should help, not abandon, the courageous people of conscience there.
In addition, cryptocurrencies are not an effective way to dodge sanctions.
While crypto wallets are anonymous, it must be remembered that transactions are on a decentralised ledger, which is traceable, permanent, and public.
It could be argued that those who are seeking to avoid sanctions would use different methods, such as cash or gold.
There are countless examples globally where those who are dissenting against ruling authoritarian regimes have their accounts shuttered and/or funds stolen. This means they are then trapped, possibly forever.
This is where Bitcoin and crypto can play a hugely beneficial role as they can receive and send it safely, securely, without censorship.
Crypto has the potential to make a real difference by giving ordinary people enhanced financial and political freedoms when those fundamental freedoms are under threat.