Belarus Prepares to Launch ‘Cross-Border’ CBDC – Russia’s Digital Ruble an Inspiration?

Tim Alper
Last updated: | 2 min read
Stacks of metal coins against the backdrop of the flag of Belarus.
Source: Vitalii/Adobe

Belarus is set to follow suit with Russia’s CBDC development plans – and plans to launch a digital version of the Belarusian ruble for use in “cross-border” payments.

Per Minsk-Novosti and Interfax, the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) has earmarked the launch of CBDC as one of its most “significant” projects of recent years.

Dmitry Kalechits, the NRBR’s Board’s Deputy Chairman, said:

“One of our most significant large-scale projects will be the introduction of the digital Belarusian ruble and its use at the cross-border level.”

Moscow expressed similar sentiments last month, with top politicians suggesting Russia’s digital ruble “could be compatible” with China’s digital yuan and other global CBDCs.

Kalechits explained that the bank already had a “definition” for the CBDC, which it already considers “a legal tender that performs all the functions of money.”

He said the coin would be “issued by the central bank” and would “have the same value as cash” versions of the Belarusian ruble.

The head office of the National Bank of the Republic Of Belarus in Minsk, Belarus.
The head office of the National Bank of the Republic Of Belarus in Minsk, Belarus. (Source: Antonio3.14 [CC BY-SA 4.0])

The ‘Digital Belarusian Ruble’ – Belarus’ CBDC Progress

Kalechits’ comments come months after Pavel Kallaur, the bank’s Governor, spoke of the NRBR’s plans to create a CBDC “experiment” with “a narrow group of participants.”

Per BELTA, Kallaur said that both commercial “banks and individuals” would take part in the pilot.

But the Governor appeared to hedge his bets at the time, claiming that the NRBR needed to “decide on the feasibility” of a digital Belarusian ruble.

Kallaur said that Presidential approval was still required, noting at the time that a final “decision will be made at the level of the head of state.”

However, Russia’s keenness to forge ahead with its own digital ruble project appears to have encouraged Minsk to speed up its own CBDC project.

Kalechits explained that settlements with the digital ruble would be legally classified as non-cash payments.

This wording echoes the terms of Moscow’s own CBCD law.

Russia’s CBDC trial is now underway, with over a dozen commercial banks now piloting digital RUB transactions with selected groups of customers.

Unlike Moscow, which has flirted with a China-style crypto ban, Belarus has been attempting to woo crypto firms.

In a bid to encourage regional crypto players to set up shop in the country, the capital Minsk has created the Hi-Tech Park, with overseas crypto companies offered visa waivers and tax-free status until at least 2025.

The media outlets reported that “at the end of May,” the Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko spoke about a CBDC launch with Elvira Nabiullina, the crypto-skeptic Governor of the Russian Central Bank.

Shortly after, Lukashenko and the NRBR pledged to make an “appropriate decision” on a CBDC launch “by the end of the year.”

But it appears that the bank has already edged closer to a rollout since May as it looks to align its CBDC plans with those now being formulated in Moscow.