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Russia, Belarus Unveil Bold Cryptocurrency, Mining Ambitions

Tim Alper
Last updated: | 2 min read

CIS nations are developing lofty crypto ambitions amid speculations that China, which is the biggest player in the global cryptocurrency mining industry, might ban mining.

Source: iStock/AleksandarGeorgiev

Belarussian president Alexandr Lukashenko has outlined a plan to use a state-operated nuclear power plant to provide energy for a massive new crypto mining center in the country. Lukashenko said he had made the decision due to overwhelming popular demand.

Also, there has been intense speculation over cryptocurrency policy in Russia in recent months. Senior Russian politicians began the year by singing cryptocurrency’s praises, and much has been made of the fact that President Vladimir Putin met in private with Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin in 2017.

Putin is thought to be privately keen on exploring the potential of cryptocurrencies – particularly as a means of circumventing American sanctions.

Earlier this month, in a column for the Moscow Times, former Portuguese Secretary of State for European Affairs Bruno Maçães opined that Russia and China were amassing large quantities of gold to underpin a joint stablecoin project.

Per Seldon News, Vladislav Ginko, an economist at the state-funded Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, has poured scorn on Maçães’ claim. Ginko says that precious metals are an “unreliable” asset, stating that the “ability to sell [gold] can be limited by sanctions from the United States, as can be seen in the case of Venezuela.”

Some USD 1.2 billion worth of Venezuelan gold is currently “stuck” in the Bank of England, with the UK abiding by strict United States sanctions war.

Ginko says that sanctions are forcing Russia’s richest people and companies to make massive Bitcoin investments, speaking of a recent BTC 1.8 million purchase, reports BitNovosti. Ginko has also tweeted about Putin’s intention “push” to use “blockchain and Bitcoin” to fight American sanctions.

However, in January 2019, Ginko also stated that he expects that Russia’s government will invest “at least USD 10 million” in Bitcoin in the first quarter of this year. Other senior officials dismissed his claims saying that “under this statement there is not a bit of common sense.”

Meanwhile, a senior Putin adviser last week told a blockchain conference in the Crimean city of Yalta that the region should look to “cryptocurrencies or stablecoin” solutions to its ongoing investment conundrum.

Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014. Strict sanctions have been imposed on the region – effectively preventing overseas companies from doing business in Crimea.

Per news agency Tass, Putin adviser Sergey Glazyev stated, “We must introduce digital money technologies, as they will radically reduce cross-border restrictions. Foreign investors cannot come because they are afraid of sanctions. But sanctions are mainly imposed through banks.”

Russia is still waiting on a package of cryptocurrrency and fintech legislation that will provide a legal framework for the industry.