Russia’s Turn On Bitcoin Puzzling For Most

Russia is all okay with Bitcoin, right? You would not be blamed to think that this is correct considering that Sberbank CEO Herman Gref has been so vocal about his approval for Bitcoin. Sberbank is owned by the Russian central bank. What Sberbank thinks would be a reflection of the central bank’s take on the matter which is inline with the Russian government’s stance? It seems that this is not the case.

Yes And No From Russia

Bitcoiners would not have been surprised by yet another government warning if it was from just about any other G8 nation. But the perception over the past few months was that Russia was optimistic about Bitcoin. That has been shattered when the Bank of Russia issued a warning today against digital currencies.

It comes just a few days after Herman Gref once again reaffirmed his approval of Bitcoin at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Some are wondering if Russia was just delayed in joining the chorus of governments issuing warnings about Bitcoin in the past few months. Others believe that it could be damage control after Gref not only approved of Bitcoin but went on to say that any consideration of banning digital currencies would be a mistake on the part of governments. Nobody knows for sure but these opposing views have left many puzzled.

Yet The Same Warnings

Russia’s warnings about digital currencies is pretty much the same as countries elsewhere in the world, especially in Asia and Europe. Another carbon copy warning about Bitcoin volatility, anonymity and possibility for money laundering. Nothing new or interesting but maybe even more harsher than other nations.

The Bank reminded citizens that “monetary surrogates” are prohibited in Russia. In other words Russians should not be having anything to do with Bitcoin. If citizens are involved in any Bitcoin activities then they may be in trouble with the law due to this money surrogate prohibition.  Some are hopeful that this is just in the interim until the government adopts a more positive policy about Bitcoin and other digital currencies.

It may be no laughing matter for Russian Bitcoiners. With the law turning against Silk Road associates in the United States, Russia may also get tough on people involved with Bitcoin in any way. And then the questions begs as to what Sberbank CEO Herman Gref was talking about considering this somewhat anti-Bitcoin stance by the Russian central bank. Nobody can say for sure.

There is no denying that Russia has some valid concerns to issue these warnings. Bitcoin is speculative in nature which has seen its price soar in less than a year. The warning about the anonymity issue and how this opens up Bitcoin to abuse by criminals and terrorists is not entirely without merit. Criminals are always looking for innovative ways of getting around the authorities and cryptocurrency may be just that.

It will be interesting to see whether this negative view of Bitcoin by Russia authorities will change Gref’s tune, or vice versa. Whatever the case, Bitcoiners should be prepared for a tightening of the screws by the authorities as Russia’s comments are not far off from other nations.  Undoubtedly its actions may be no different either.

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