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CIS Week: Siberians Running Auto Engine Mines, Belarus' Crypto March

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Catch up on essential blockchain and cryptocurrency news stories from CIS this week.

Public Record Shows How Keen Ukrainian Government Officials Are on Bitcoin
Opendatabot, a website that gathers data from Ukraine’s public and court records, has published the names of 57 government officials who have holdings in bitcoin. Their number includes several members of parliament, as well as numerous regional and city councilors, ministry staff and presidential aides. The list is topped by Dmitry Golubov, a member of the Rada (Ukrainian parliament), who declared a 4,376 BTC purchase in 2015.

Other public officials declared they had made investments in Bitcoin Cash and other cryptocurrencies, or declared their cryptocurrency holdings in US dollars or Ukrainian hrivna. At least two officials failed or refused to declare their cryptocurrency holdings

Opendatabot quotes Sergei Mitkalyk, Executive Director of the Anticorruption Headquarters, a Ukrainian NGO, as saying, “According to the letter of the law, individuals are not obliged to declare cryptocurrency holdings, as cryptocurrencies have no legal status in Ukraine. However, the spirit of the law would have it that cryptocurrencies are a de facto intangible asset, as they can be exchanged for legal tender, and as such should be declared.”

Putin Advisor: Bitcoin Needs a Russian Central Bank-like Regulator
Herman Klimenko, Vladimir Putin’s advisor on internet development, told reporters at Lenta.ru that bitcoin’s recent slump was caused by its lack of a regulating body. Klimenko claims cryptocurrencies need a regulator in the mold of Russia’s Central Bank or its governor Elvira Nabiullina.

Klimenko says without regulation, cryptocurrencies can only follow speculative trends, and claims last year’s bitcoin surge came about as a result of the issuance of an unusually high number of initial coin offerings (ICO). He noted, “Bitcoin has no impartial Nabiullina figure or a Central Bank-like organization interested in supporting its course."

Lenta also reported on some of the more inventive methods Russians are going to in order to mine cryptocurrencies. A Novosibirsk resident is using a converted car alternator to power his mining hardware, earning him an average of about USD 6.40 per day.

Meanwhile, a Russian firm named Comino created a cryptocurrency mining device that simultaneously heats your house. The device makes use of liquid cooling technology and costs USD 4,500. A single device can provide enough heat for a room of around 25-30 square meters, while earning its owner around USD 10 dollars. In Russia, this amount could be enough to cover a household’s monthly electricity bill.

Belarus Sets March Date for Cryptocurrency Legalization
The Belarusian government has revealed cryptocurrency operations will become legal at its new High-Tech Park as of March 28.

The country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko unveiled a far-reaching decree on cryptocurrencies and blockchain last year, as part of its plans to draw overseas investment to the High-Tech Park. Overseas cryptocurrency and blockchain startups can enjoy tax-free status if they take up residence at the park, and overseas foreign IT specialists can take 180-day visa-free sojourns in Belarus – still one of the most restrictive bureaucracies in Europe.

The decree also legalizes buying, selling and exchanging the cryptocurrencies, will allow cryptocurrency exchanges to operate unhindered, legalize ICOs and will encourage smart contract development for companies that move to the High-Tech Park after March 28.

The move has come as something of a surprise for many overseas observers: Former American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice once called the country “the last outpost of tyranny in Europe,” while Lukashenko at one point described the internet as a “pile of garbage.”

New Platform Claims to Look out for CIS Entertainers in China – Using Blockchain Technology
Russia’s MDL Talent Hub is working on a platform that it claims will safeguard the interests of foreign models, actors, singers, dancers and circus performers in China. The company, which is based in Shanghai, says some 10,000 non-Chinese work as models in China, and that over half of this number are from Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere in the CIS.

MDL Talent Hub claims that Chinese companies have only recently begun making use of overseas entertainers, the industry is as yet unregulated, and many complain of unscrupulous agents and “deceitful” businesses practices. Some young models allegedly end up on so-called “slave contracts,” collapsing from exhaustion, and in the case of one 14 year old girl, have even died from “overwork.”

The Russian company says it plans to launch its platform in fall this year, and will allow entertainers who register on the site to check out the reputation of companies and agents before they decide to take on jobs, while employers will also be able to use the platform as a sort of online database of overseas talent.

MDL says it also hopes to extend the reach of its platform to other East Asian countries, with many overseas entertainers also working in countries such as South Korea and Japan.

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