The Ministry of Finance together with regulators and banks are discussing the idea of minting Russia’s own state-controlled cryptocurrency. Its main difference from bitcoin and the likes would be centralised issuance.

There is no talk about the draft legislation yet, only the general principles of using such a cryptocurrency are being discussed, as Pavel Livadny, a deputy director of the Federal Financial Monitoring Service, noted talking to “Kommersant”.

According to him, emission of the new cryptocurrency will only be permitted to licensed financial bodies. Special regulated exchange markets are considered for buying and selling the cryptocurrency for rubles or other fiat currencies. All exchange operations imply compulsory person identification “to minimise anonymous transactions,” Livadny explained. 

All these measures are supposed to eliminate the principal feature of cryptocurrency that Russian authorities have been critical about, namely, the anonymity of transactions. For them, it goes hand in hand with terrorism financing, drug dealing and other illegal activities. Circulation of any other cryptocurrencies in Russia apart from the centrally issued will be prohibited. The draft law on the ban of “surrogate money” has been prepared by the Ministry of Finance a while ago and is about to be brought before the government. The bill provides high fines and imprisonment for up to seven years for issuance and exchange of unofficial digital money.

Earlier, the Federal Financial Monitoring Service made a statement that, rather than disregarded, cryptocurrencies should be regulated. “We cannot ignore the fact that this tool is advancing all over the world, and we’ll have to start looking at it from a different angle that concerns not prohibition but regulation,” Livadny said last month.

Plans for creation of a digital version of Russian national currency have been proclaimed before, that time, by the electronic payments provider Qiwi. In September 2015, the company announced the project BitRuble which was to become the company's proprietary cryptocurrency. However, due to the uncertainty about legal status of the subject in Russia, the project has stalled.

Elena Platonova