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The Central Bank of Russia is tightening surveillance of P2P transactions, including those in crypto

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The Central Bank of Russia (CBR) recommended that the country’s commercial banks are stepping up surveillance of user transactions that may be aimed at circumventing CBR’s “special economic measures to counter foreign currency outflows abroad,” local media reported on Thursday. The recommendation includes closer monitoring of crypto trading, which is mentioned among the tools for withdrawing funds from Russia.

The letter, which CBR Deputy Chairman Yuri Isaev sent to banking organizations on Wednesday, instructs them to pay closer attention to cases of “unusual behavior” by their customers. These include “abnormal” transaction activity and unusual spending patterns. Any money withdrawals via digital currencies should also attract increased attention, the letter says.

If necessary, the suspicious transactions are to be blocked and the information about them is to be forwarded to the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (Rosfinmonitoring).

Special measures have been taken to limit the outflow of foreign currencies enacted in the first days of the Ukraine war and the resulting economic sanctions. These include a limit on foreign exchange transactions by Russian citizens to US$5,000 and a cash cap of US$10,000 for foreign travelers. Purchasing land, securities and other assets from residents of “non-friendly” jurisdictions requires government approval.

Deputy Chairman of the Russian Banks Association Aleksey Voylukov explained told journalists that the CBR’s recommendations are intended to prevent the proliferation of schemes to circumvent the imposed limits, particularly via crypto exchanges.

The news comes as no surprise considering there are more than 10 million Russian citizens in total keep around 5 trillion rubles ($63 billion) in crypto. With their Visa and Mastercard cards disabled and their own government imposing strict restrictions on transactions, many Russian citizens are left with crypto as their only option to move their funds.

Despite widespread narratives of Russian oligarchs attempting to hide their wealth, it is ultimately ordinary people who are relying on digital asset infrastructure amid skyrocketing inflation and tightening monetary control by the government.