Russian Central Bank Wary of Cryptocurrencies; Sberbank Suspends Crypto Desk Plans

Bank of Russia head Elvira Nabiullina has told deputies of the State Duma (parliament) in Russia that her organization is wary of cryptocurrencies, Pravo reports:

“We are against the legalization of cryptocurrency as a means of payment. We believe that there are big risks for those who hold cryptocurrencies…We need to protect our citizens from risky investments.”

Nabiullina reportedly made the comments as part of a presentation to the Duma on work the central bank conducted in 2018.

She also reportedly told the governors, that, following the opening of two dedicated centres, the Bank of Russia noted 168 pyramid schemes being promoted in Russia in 2018, a 25% increase over the number detected in 2017.

The Pravo story does not include any comments Nabiullina may have made regarding how many of those pyramid schemes may have involved cryptocurrencies.

Nabiullina also reportedly told the Duma that her bank supports “de-dollarization,” or decreasing Russia’s involvement with and dependence on US dollars for foreign trade.

Russian politicians have periodically floated the idea of creating a national cryptocurrency for Russia, and the country has been a vocal supporter of Venezuela’s national crypto project, El Petro, and of similar efforts in Iran.

Foreign currency loans and deposits are declining in Russia, said Nabiulllina, and Russia’s foreign debt decreased by 12.4% in 2018:

“These measures in aggregate reduce the external risks of economic and political nature for Russia.”

The Pravo report was published on May 30th, and on the same day, Russian state media outlet TASS wrote that large Russian bank Sberbank has shelved plans to provide cryptocurrency trading accounts, “…due to the negative attitude of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation to this product.”

According to TASS, Sberbank Vice President Andrei Shemetov told reporters at a recent press conference:

“Regarding cryptocurrency, we waited for legislation that allows you to trade cryptocurrency. Since the regulator is currently looking negative, we decided to suspend this cryptocurrency plan.”

The outlet writes that at the end of 2017, Igor Bulantsev, head of Sberbank’s CIB division, stated publicly that a subsidiary bank of Sberbank in Switzerland was working to enable crypto trading services through Sberbank.

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