Russia is proposing to significantly restrict its citizens’ access to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies under the guise of consumer protection.
In a surprise move, Russia’s deputy finance minister Alexey Moiseev signaled that the government plans to restrict the sale of cryptocurrencies to “qualified investors,” leaving the Moscow Stock Exchange as the only medium through which these select investors could purchase Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
In an interview with the Russia 24 television channel, Moiseev justified the proposed restriction based on his view that cryptocurrencies are likely to be pyramid schemes. Moiseev said “ordinary people” were ill-equipped to deal with cryptocurrencies, as they are “very dangerous investments that could lead to loss of money.”
Russia’s authoritarian government has taken a traditionally harsh stance toward cryptocurrencies, having previously proposed legislation that would criminalize the use of ‘surrogate’ financial products. While that legislation promised hash penalties for those caught using or mining Bitcoin, Moiseev was mum on what penalties were in store for anyone caught violating the latest proposal.
Russian legislators were supposed to finalize new cryptocurrency legislation by October, but the working group tasked with finalizing this bill announced earlier this month that their work wouldn’t be complete until later this winter at the earliest.
Given Moiseev’s recent comments, it appears likely that online exchanges for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will be subject to the same domain-blocking enthusiasm that telecom regulator Roskomnadzor has applied to internationally licensed online gambling sites (including another 1,712 gambling sites in the week spanning August 15-21).
This summer, Russian legislators approved legislation restricting the use of virtual private networks and other technical workarounds that many Russians use to circumvent Roskomnadzor’s ban-hammer. Last week, Roskomnadzor issued a draft of technical guidelines detailing the narrow parameters under which these tools can still be employed. The draft is up for public consultation until August 31.