Coinbase CEO Says Ordinary Russians Use Bitcoin as a ‘Lifeline’


Coinbase Global Inc. is not banning all Russian users at the moment, but would comply if the US government decides to impose such a restriction, according to its chief executive officer, Brian Armstrong.

The cryptocurrency exchange will block transactions from IP addresses that could belong to sanctioned individuals or organizations, as well as any other regulated financial services company, Armstrong said in a Twitter thread. But it will not preemptively ban all Russians from using Coinbase, he said.

“Some ordinary Russians are using crypto as a lifeline after their currency collapsed. A lot of them are probably against what their country is doing and a ban would hurt them too,” Armstrong said.

The cryptocurrency industry has attracted significant attention amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with some government officials questioning whether Russia or the country’s wealthy could circumvent sanctions by using crypto, and Ukraine actively seeking donations via digital assets .

Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation, recently called on major crypto exchanges to ban addresses of Russian users.

Recent blockchain data suggests that residents of the sanctions-hit nation have been in no rush to start trading crypto on the major exchanges.

According to Chainalysis, ruble-denominated crypto activity was just $34.1 million as of March 3. That’s down from the recent high of $70.7 million on Feb. 24 — and the all-time high of $158 million on May 20, 2021.

Armstrong said he doesn’t see a high risk of Russian oligarchs using crypto to avoid sanctions because the open ledger makes money movements more traceable than using other assets like cash or gold.

Armstrong’s comments echo those of Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, CEO of Binance Holdings Ltd., who said on Wednesday that it would be “unethical” for his exchange to restrict all Russians.

Coinbase would take additional steps as needed given the rapidly changing situation, Armstrong said. “Of course, if the US government decides to impose a ban, we will comply with those laws,” he added. Coinbase CEO Says Ordinary Russians Use Bitcoin as a ‘Lifeline’

Fry Electronics Team

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