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Group of 17 Russian Banks Officially Joins ‘Second Stage’ of Digital Ruble Pilot

Tim Alper
Last updated: | 2 min read
The Russian flag flies above a building in Moscow.

Russia’s digital ruble pilot is gathering pace, with 17 more banks joining the Central Bank’s CBDC project.

The group of banks includes heavyweights such as Sberbank and Tinkoff, the Central Bank explained in an official statement.

This represents a major coup for the Central Bank. Both Sberbank and Tinkoff pulled out of the first phase of the pilot prior to launch last year. In an official Telegram post, the Central Bank explained:

“The [banks] have already signed an agreement to join the digital ruble platform. [They] are now setting up their systems to enter the pilot when it is expanded.”

The move takes the number of banks and financial institutions in the pilot to 30. The bank also said that “30 trading and service providers” are also taking part in the pilot.

In addition to Sberbank and Tinkoff, the list of newly added banks also includes the following:

  • AB Russia
  • Bank Orenburg
  • Russian Standard Bank
  • Russian Bank for Small and Medium Enterprises Support
  • Russian Agricultural Bank
  • Expobank
  • Novikombank
  • Russian Regional Development Bank
  • Bank Kuban Kredit
  • Tochka Bank
  • Primtercombank
  • RosDor Bank
  • Center-invest Bank
  • National Commercial Bank of Russia
A branch of the Russian Agricultural Bank in the Russian Chechen Republic.
A branch of the Russian Agricultural Bank in the Russian Chechen Republic. (Source: Saeed Misarbiev [CC BY-SA 4.0])

What’s Different About the New Banks Joining Russia’s CBDC Pilot?

The list includes a much wider variety of banks than the initial 13 banks that joined the first stage of the pilot in mid-2023.

It includes two neobanks, one of which is operated by the Russian tech giant

It also comprises regional banks headquartered in areas as far afield as Primorsky Krai and the disputed territory of Crimea.

Two banks on the list specialize in providing finance to specific industrial sectors – namely agriculture and commodities production.

And this could indicate that Moscow is indeed looking to use its CBDC to power international trade deals.

The Kremlin hopes that Russian allies will use the CBDC as a payment tool for imports, as well as exports of food, metals, and energy resources.

The Central Bank is yet to provide further details of the second stage of its pilot. But analysts have claimed it could begin in the coming weeks.

The first stage focused primarily on CBDC-powered micropayments and customer-to-business transactions.

Businesses trailing the coin included a beauty salon in Yekaterinburg and an online education services provider.

But considering the type of banks included in the new list, it may be reasonable to expect the next stage to involve more B2B transactions.

The fact that more regional banks are involved could mean the Central Bank wants to trial the use of the digital ruble outside Russia’s biggest cities.