The biggest Russian bank has announced that it will create its own blockchain and it will incorporate it with Ethereum to expand into DeFi and Web3 markets. The Russian government plans to create its own crypto exchange.
Sber (formerly known as Sberbank) officially announced new opportunities on its proprietary blockchain platform. This includes compatibility with smart contracts and applications on Ethereum. The bank stated that this would enable developers to transfer smart contracts and entire projects between Sber’s blockchain and other public blockchain networks.
Sber’s latest additions include integration with MetaMask, a major software cryptocurrency wallet that interacts with the Ethereum blockchain. According to the announcement, users can now make transactions with tokens and smart contracts placed on Sber’s blockchain platform.
Alexander Nam, head of the blockchain lab, said that “Sber Blockchain Lab collaborates closely with external developers. I am happy that our community will now be able to run DeFi apps on Sber’s infrastructure.” The new integrated features will allow Sber to bring together developers, financial institutions, and corporations to explore the practical applications of blockchain, Web3 and decentralized finance (DeFi).
Sberbank, as previously reported, has been actively developing blockchain products in recent years, submitting an application to the Bank of Russia in order to launch a platform on blockchain for its “Sbercoin” stablecoin in 2021. Sber finally announced its first digital currency transaction after receiving approval from the central bank in spring 2022. The government of Russia is Sber’s majority shareholder, owning 50% + 1 share.
Sber’s announcement was made shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded an open, blockchain-based settlement network. He condemned the monopoly of global financial payments systems and expressed confidence that digital currencies-based technology would allow for greater independence from banks. Putin’s government, however, does not allow citizens to use crypto for payment. In early 2020, it imposed a blanket ban against payments using Bitcoin.
Russian lawmakers discussed possible legal amendments to enable the government to launch a national cryptocurrency exchange. The Bank of Russia and the Ministry of Finance support this effort, which is known for being a source of much disagreement in regulating the local crypto market.
Russia wants to launch its own crypto exchange
Russian lawmakers are currently working on amendments that would allow for the launch of a national cryptocurrency exchange. The effort is supported by both the Ministry of Finance as well as the Central Bank of Russia.
Local media reported that members of Russia’s lower chamber, the Duma, have been meeting with market participants to discuss amendments to its existing cryptocurrency legislation “On digital financial assets.” First, the amendments that would establish a legal framework to allow for a national currency exchange will be presented to the central bank.
Sergey Altuhov was a member of the Committee of Economic Policy of Duma, and he highlighted the fiscal sensibility of these measures:
“It makes no sense to deny the existence of cryptocurrencies, the problem is they circulate in a large stream outside of state regulation. These are billions of tax rubles of lost tax revenues to the federal budget.”
In June 2022, Anatoly Aksakov (head of Duma’s Committee on Financial Market), suggested a Russian national crypto exchange could be launched under the Moscow Exchange, as this is seen as a “respectable organization with a long tradition.” In September, the Moscow Exchange created a bill on behalf of the central bank to allow the trading of digital financial assets.
A bill that would allow cryptocurrency mining and the sale of cryptocurrency mined was presented to Duma earlier this month. Although the bill will create a Russian platform to sell cryptocurrency, local miners can also use foreign platforms. The Russian regulations and currency controls would not apply to transactions in this case. However, they would need to be reported to Russia’s tax service.
Many popular crypto exchanges have stopped operating in Russia. However, some platforms continue to serve the region.
Nine months after the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, sanctions against Russia have grown at an aggressive rate. The European Union legislators announced that they would ban all cross-border crypto payments between Russia’s citizens and Russia.
The EU has initiated a ban on all “crypto asset wallets and accounts” in response to Russia’s continued annexes of Ukrainian land, its repeated mobilization of troops in the country, and threats of nuclear escalation.
In previous sanctions, cryptocurrency payments between Russian and EU wallets were limited to 10,000 euros. This new ban will deprive Russia of its military power and limit its industrial components.
Crypto exchanges apply bans on Russian crypto users
A number of popular cryptocurrency exchanges in the region, including LocalBitcoins and Crypto.com, sent emails to customers advising them to withdraw funds immediately to avoid being unable to use their services.
It’s worth noting that in September 2022, LocalBitcoins was responsible for 8% of Russia’s crypto trade volume. This makes them the largest client base on the exchange. Additionally, Russian users were responsible for facilitating 20% of all BTC trading volumes before the ban.
Binance, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world, is working to implement the new restrictions. A representative of the firm said that the changes could take time and would not be live until a set date.
Bitfinex, an exchange that had opposed the increasing sanctions being imposed against Russian citizens, has recently changed its mind, saying that it may need to modify its policies if directed by the regulatory authorities.
Another ban faced by Russian citizens comes from Dapper Labs, who banned them from accessing the popular blockchain earlier this month. Users from this side of the globe will not be able to access the popular NFT marketplace, along with several other crypto products.
It’s no surprise to anyone that most Russians can’t rely on their bank accounts anymore, and crypto provides a safe haven to guard their savings or receive money from abroad. The hard fact is that digital assets can be used to help citizens in war zones. And it’s the same with Ukraine, which has received billions in crypto donations.
This last ban will cause pain to some Russian financial institutions and retail outlets. The fact that BTC saw a sharp increase in price during the conflict is something that the EU is much aware of. The European Authorities noticed this loophole in their strategy of suffocating Russia, and it’s also trying to sanction this.
However, these sanctions will be enforced through the EU’s Financial Action Task Force, and they can potentially redefine the region’s crypto landscape in the near future.
What happens to Ruble pairs that are held by these exchanges
The regulators have been strict with exchanges that allow blacklisted citizens to trade on their platforms in the past. This leads to the question: What will large volumes of Rubles trading pairs do when dealing with these assets?
Nobody gave any indication of what exchanges should do, and they will be prudent this time. Now, the exchanges have no choice but to make major losses on their balances. The ban will put decentralized finance (DeFi) back in the spotlight because it provides a censorship-resistant and easily accessible infrastructure to people living in geopolitical turmoil. However, we’re already seeing censorship on the new PoS Ethereum blockchain.
It is unclear if exchanges will have to return funds to Russian users or block access to their accounts. This is something that each exchange will have to resolve on its own.
Despite the ban, many exchanges are still functional
Binance is considering restricting its services to Russian users. However, Binance is operating as usual. The United States-based exchange Kraken, which is based in the United States, has not placed any restrictions on Russian customers, and there are no indications as to whether it will voluntarily comply with EU requirements.
Antigua and Barbuda’s FTX is another popular exchange that has not been subject to any kind of ban. Garantex, a popular Russian cryptocurrency platform, has not been banned. It still offers traders in the region a variety of advanced services like futures and derivatives.
Other popular platforms operating in the region include Seychelles-registered Huobi Global, OKX, KuCoin, and Mexc Global. Bybit, a Singapore-registered cryptocurrency exchange, stated that it would continue to adhere to its ethos and support transparency, freedom and decentralization. It will not impose sanctions on Russian clients. Many of these clients may not agree with the war or the stance of their leaders.
Last but not least, Exmo, a crypto exchange based in the United Kingdom, has sold its Russian business earlier this year to a local vendor. Its Exmo.me domain still allows the platform to operate in Russia and the neighboring countries of Belarus and Kazakhstan.
As the war between Russia and Ukraine continues, it will be fascinating to see how crypto companies operating in the region adapt and adjust to changing geopolitical realities.
A representative of Russia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry called for the government to carry out cross-border settlements using CBDCs (central bank digital currency) and cryptocurrency.
According to TASS, a local Russian publication, Sergei Katyrin, President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, wrote a letter to Mikhail Mishustin, the Russian Prime Minister, containing a series of proposals for developing cooperation between African countries.
Russia to create a new bank to support economic trade with African countries
Katyrin advocated the use CBDCs (central bank digital currency) and cryptocurrency for mutual settlement and payment as part of Russia’s intent to develop more economic relationships with African countries, as a way to circumvent the Western sanctions imposed as a consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Sergei Katyrin stated, “It seems useful to instruct the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation, together with the Central Bank, to ensure providing intergovernmental agreements with African states on the use of national currencies and cryptocurrencies in mutual settlements and payments.”
He also mentioned that the government should create a new export-import bank to support small and medium-sized enterprises in Africa.
At the same time, some African countries consider cooperation with Russia-linked blockchain networks.
Africa is starting to adopt crypto on a larger scale
At the beginning of April, three African countries, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the Republic of the Congo made a joint announcement about their plans to adopt TONcoin, the native coin of Ton blockchain. The announcement stated that each country would make a gradual transition to adopt cryptocurrency as a central pillar in their economic structures.
The TON blockchain is supported by the TON Foundation and has raised funds of around $250 from big companies from the crypto industry. Huobi Incubator and KuCoin Ventures were among the fund’s contributors. As projects are accepted, the fund will deploy funds via incubation, investment grants, hackathons, and educational programs.
Benjamin Rameau, the managing partner of TONcoin Fund, states that they are focusing on Web 3-related developments and are currently incubating a non-fungible token (NFT) and a decentralized exchange. He added that wallets, NFT marketplaces, and decentralized finance are all possibilities for the fund.
Unofficially, TON has been associated with Telegram, the privacy-focused messaging app, as its co-founder, Pavel Durov expresses support for TON and possible integrations on the Telegram app.
According to reports, the DRC may also launch a new national stablecoin on top of TON blockchain.
Other African countries have also reported CBDC projects, including Kenya, Ghana, and the Republic of South Africa. Ghana worked last year to build offline capabilities to support its potential CBDC. This was to encourage its use in all sectors of society.
Crypto status in Russia
Russia continues to work on issuing a new federal bill regarding the use of cryptocurrencies after they banned crypto payments in 2021. But only one year later, in mid-February 2021, the Bank of Russia launched the digital ruble trial. Russian citizens successfully transacted the digital ruble and the trial was a success.
The digital ruble trial included 12 financial institutions and three of them have already successfully implemented the CBDC platform. During the first stage of the process, users will open digital wallets on the platform’s mobile application. They can also convert the fiat in their bank accounts into CBDC and use tokens for national transactions.
The next stage of the trial is to test the digital rubles as a payment method in stores. More developments are planned for the CBDC that will enable users to use it as they use fiat currencies.
In an age of blockchain and crypto, the physical war in Ukraine could be funded by NFTs. Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation announced an NFT collection to illustrate the chronological events of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
The government of Ukraine is selling non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to ensure that all the facts and events of the war between Russia and Ukraine will not be forgotten over time. All the funds collected will be used to support the army and civilians in the atrocious war.
On February 24th, 2022, Russia started to invade Ukraine. The entire world was in shock, including Russian citizens. Nobody ever believed that the threats of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, would ever come to ve true. We were all wrong.
Ukraine’s invasion has been going on for more than a month now, and the end of the aggression is nowhere in sight.
While the officials of the two sides continue to meet for face-to-face talks in the pursuit to end the war, the population is either defending the country or fleeing.
Since the first week of the invasion, the Kyiv government has started to accept cryptocurrency donations, which were plentiful, especially from famous personalities within the tech and crypto space.
The crypto donations also proved to be a reliable financial market during these uncertain times. The Bitcoin price went up as sanctions poured in and the Russian economy started to collapse.
Meta History: Museum of War
The NFT collection displaying the terrible facts of the war between the two countries has been announced with a Twitter post by Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation.
While Russia uses tanks to destroy Ukraine, we rely on revolutionary blockchain tech. @Meta_History_UA NFT-Museum is launched. The place to keep the memory of war. And the place to celebrate the Ukrainian identity and freedom. Check here: https://t.co/IrNV0w54tg
Ukraine’s minister claimed that while Russia uses tanks to destroy Ukraine’s infrastructure, Ukraine relies on revolutionary blockchain tech to help rebuild it.
The Museum of War is a collection that combines non-fungible tokens (NFTs) registered on blockchain with news items. Each item of the collection is a reminder of an important event of the war and uses a unique illustration.
The NFT launch replaces an earlier plan that would have allowed tokens to be airdropped to anyone who donated cryptocurrency to Ukraine. However, the government decided to not do the airdrop. There is currently no plan to give prior donors an advantage in selling the new NFTs.
Both countries have used cryptocurrency to bypass local currency restrictions and capitalise on the hype around cryptocurrency to solicit donations. Some claim that the Ukrainian government raised $54 million in cryptocurrency through donations.
Writing history into the collective memory of the digital age
According to the online museum, these tokens aim to preserve the memories of those events. They are created with the sole scope to share truthful information with the entire world and help continue receiving donations for Ukraine’s support.
The virtual museum platform presents the collection as a chronological record of all events in recent Ukrainian history. The NFTs are factual statements accompanied by personal reflections. Each NFT has a simple formula: each token is an actual news piece from an official source and an illustration from international artists.
At the moment, there are 54 NFTs available, which cover the first three days of the war between Russia and Ukraine. The NFT collection of the war in Ukraine starts with Russia’s announcement to launch a special military operation in Donbas.
The collection is currently unreleased but can be seen on the project’s official website. The sale is expected to start at the beginning of April 2022.
The NFT collection is being launched in collaboration with Fair.xyz, a blockchain company that provides the NFT sales platform.
Supporters can also choose to donate Ether (ETH) directly on the page of the project – Museum of War.
The price of Bitcoin (BTC) surpassed the $40,000 level on intraday charts, as the leading cryptocurrency rose more than 15% in one day, despite the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.
The two largest cities in Ukraine, Kyiv and Kharkiv, are under attack from the Russian side. However, the huge economic sanctions imposed on Russia seemed to have brought the largest single-day gain Bitcoin had seen in a year. Most of the crypto markets are green, and Ethereum (ETH), the second-largest cryptocurrency, has risen by more than 12%.
All banks worldwide have pledged to block SWIFT from Russia. The U.S. Treasury Department has placed a ban on U.S. entities interfacing with Russia’s central banks. Foreigners are prohibited from Moscow’s stock exchange for fear of stock-market sell-offs.
Financial markets and war in Ukraine
Russian President, Vladimir Putin, initiated the conflict in Ukraine. The entire world is watching, and most nations are sending humanitarian aid and military equipment. However, observers fear that the almost 200,000 strong invading force that was defeated by the surprisingly strong Ukraine resistance will resort to more brutal tactics. As sanctions from the United States and Europe began to bite into Russia’s economy, the Russian and Ukrainian delegations held an initial peace talk at the Belarus border during the fifth day of the conflict.
Although nobody had expected Ukraine to fight off the invading forces for so long, with each day that passes, more economic sanctions and escalations are taking place.
Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Digital Transformation asked that all major crypto exchanges block Russian addresses during the fifth day of the conflict.
The U.S. and the European Union have removed certain Russian banks from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT), a messaging network that supports global financial transactions. This is the system that both Ripple and Stellar are trying to replace with lighting speed networks and significantly lower transaction fees.
Is cryptocurrency a way to avoid sanctions?
These economic sanctions are without precedent in the modern economy, and some militate for adopting blockchain products to bypass some of these constraints. As investors see the potential for massive investments in decentralised finance (DeFi) after the Russian sanctions, Bitcoin and all other top altcoins are rallying today.
Due to the ban from the SWIFT payment system, Russian banks are now prohibited from interbank transactions with non-Russian entities. It is expected that the Russian banks will try to use crypto as a way of circumventing this sanction and other measures meant to isolate them from the global financial system.
Russian citizens are now unable to use their credit cards outside Russia, and the effects of the harsh sanctions on the Russian central bank had caused the ruble to drop 30% in one day, on February 28, when $1 was around 101 Russian Rubles. In an attempt to stop the price from plummeting even further, the Russian central bank froze the Russian exchange market and ordered Russian businesses to sell 70% of their foreign cash assets. Also, the central bank ordered brokers not to execute sell orders from foreign shareholders.
The DeFi space is still an innovation, but considering the strict Russian financial environment, it could help increase the number of people focusing on it. Military conflicts have always posed a huge threat to economies, and investors often wonder where else they can put their money. This looks like one of those smart bets, and DeFi could be one of the few solutions left to this fast degrading economy.
Without a doubt, the sanctions imposed on Russia by Western powers are biting hard on the country’s economic system. Russia’s ruble is sinking.
Major cryptocurrencies have declined on Monday, February 21, as Russia publicly recognised two pro-Russian republics in Eastern Ukraine.
There are no concrete plans for a summit between Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden. However, 150,000 Russian troops are reported to have moved closer to the Ukraine border.
Investors have become more cautious in recent weeks as they fear rising energy prices, sanctions from the U.S. and its European allies against Russia. This will likely impact a global economy already suffering from inflation and delays in supply chains.
Russia deployed troops in Ukraine
After recognising the two regions as independent on February 21st, Russian President Vladimir Putin directed the deployment of troops in the two eastern Ukraine breakaway areas. This accelerated a crisis that the West fears could lead to a major war.
These moves were condemned by the United States of America and the European Union. They promised new sanctions. However, it was unclear whether the West would view the Russian military action as a start of an invasion. In practice, the area was already controlled both by Russian-backed separatists as well as Moscow.
It is expected to see the U.S. announce new sanctions soon as a response to Russia’s decisions.
Political tensions cause crypto prices to decrease
Although the price of Bitcoin has been steady throughout the week, some analysts predict a volatile few more weeks.
After a strong February during which we saw the cryptocurrency rebound from six-month lows at 2022’s beginning, BTC settled in the $41,000 to 45,000 range.
However, things changed as the Biden administration announced sanctions against the separatist Ukraine republics following Putin’s speech. The price per barrel of brent crude oil rose to $97, which represents an almost 4% increase.
Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency, dropped to around $36,000 in the following hours. This is a drop of over 5.5% from the previous 24 hours. Ether, which is the second-largest crypto by market capitalization, lost 7% during the same time period. Other cryptos suffered from negative numbers.
The U.S. equity market was closed due to the National Presidents Day holiday. However, major European stock exchanges including the FTSE 100 and the DAX in Frankfurt, as well as the CAC 40 in Paris, finished in the red. Major Asian indexes lost ground Monday as well, including the Japanese Nikkei225, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng, and the Asia Dow.
Market analysts noticed that the sudden deterioration of diplomatic relationships can have a strong effect on financial markets. The cryptocurrency market was already sensible and the investor’s confidence, which was already shallow, has quickly disappeared.
Some of the biggest losers are Theta Fuel (TFUEL), Gala (GALA), Harmony (ONE), Quant (QNT) and New (NEO), as they all lost over 16% in value in the last 24 hours.
Other cryptocurrencies that are popular, Cardano and Solana, have fallen by around 12% in the past day. Memecoins such as Dogecoin and Shiba Inu have seen their value drop by 7-10% during this period.
Overall, the crypto market has fallen by 6% in the past day and is now valued at $1.67 trillion.
The chart is mostly in red and shows no signs of recovery.
Stocks extend losses as investors weigh likelihood of Russia invading Ukraine
Most financial markets experience downturns by the prospect of war between Russia, Ukraine and other countries. The increasing political tensions have shaken both the crypto and other commodities market. As investors waited for developments in Russia-Ukraine, worldwide shares keep losing value.
Shares fell in all Asian markets. Tokyo’s Nikkei225 index fell 1.8% to 26,426, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 3.29%, to 23,575. The Kospi in Seoul fell 1.69% to 2,695.80. The Shanghai Composite index also fell 1.44%, to 3,440.
S&P 500 e-mini futures slid 1.81%. Dow Jones industrial average futures e-mini fell 1.37%, while Nasdaq 100 futures e-mini dropped 2.65%. The stock market was closed in the US due to the President’s Day holiday.