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Binance blocks crypto accounts of relatives linked to the Russian government

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Cryptocurrency exchange Binance is taking more action to prevent the Russian government from mitigating the impact of sanctions by using crypto.

Binance has shut down several accounts linked to relatives of top Kremlin officials in the past two months since Russia’s military action in Ukraine began, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.

Those affected included Elizaveta Peskova, daughter of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, and Polina Kovaleva, stepdaughter of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, according to the report. Binance said it also blocked Kirill Malofeyev, the son of Konstantin Malofeyev, a Russian oligarch previously accused of violating United States sanctions.

“Proud to be part of this team making a real difference,” Chagri Poyraz, Binance’s newly appointed global sanctions head, wrote on his LinkedIn page of Binance’s latest actions.

Poyraz said Binance blocked Peskova on March 3 when she tried to use the exchange through a third party. She was then sanctioned by the US Treasury Department on March 11 under sanctions against “Kremlin elites, leaders, oligarchs and family for enabling Putin’s war on Ukraine.”

Peskova then expressed outrage at the Western sanctions and declared that such actions were “completely unfair and unfounded”. “I was really surprised because it’s strange to introduce sanctions against someone who is 24 years old and has nothing to do with the situation,” she said. Peskova’s last Instagram post, March 12, reads one word: “Peace.”

According to Poyraz, Binance continues to monitor its platform for additional individuals associated with sanctioned individuals who may be using its services.

“The difference is that our compliance screen operations are ‘proactive’, aimed at identifying and mitigating the risk of financial crime before any regulatory or legal action is taken against that person or entity,” he said.

On April 21, Binance passed a series of restrictions for Russian nationals or residents, restricting trading on accounts with more than €10,000 or $10,800. Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao previously said that Binance will comply with sanctions but will not “unilaterally freeze millions of innocent user accounts” due to Western sanctions against Russia.

Related: The EU bans the provision of “high-quality crypto-asset services” to Russia

Aside from reaffirming Binance’s eagerness to comply with sanctions, the latest report also suggests that family members of key Russian officials have very strong ties to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC). This comes despite the Bank of Russia’s hostility towards bitcoin and unwillingness to welcome crypto investments in the country.

It is also worth noting that some Russian officials, as well as their spouses and minor children, are banned from investing in crypto under Russia’s own laws.