The European Union (EU) authorities have included bitcoin () and other cryptocurrencies in the scope of existing sanctions slapped upon Russia and Belarus amidst the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. The authorities have clarified that cryptocurrencies fall into the category of transferable assets, according to reports on March 9, 2022.
EU Include Crypto in Russia, Belarus Sanctions
Despite the swathes of international sanctions imposed on Russia since it started bombarding Ukraine roughly 14 days ago, it appears Putin and his army are not ready to drop their arms just yet, with thousands of people already dead or rendered homeless by the raging Putin war.
In light of the foregoing, the European Commission and its Member States agreed during a meeting on March 9, 2022, to adopt further targeted sanctions on Russia and Belarus, which recently joined the onslaught against Ukraine.
According to a statement on the website of the European Commission, the new restrictive measures will make it almost impossible for Russia to circumvent the sanctions either through cryptocurrencies or its Belarusian ally.
“The European Commission welcomes today’s agreement of Member States to adopt further targeted sanctions in view of the situation in Ukraine and in response to Belarus’ involvement in the aggression,” declared the Commission, adding:
“In particular, the new measures impose restrictive measures on 160 individuals and amend Regulation (EC) 765/2006 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Belarus and Regulation EU 833/2014 concerning Russia’s actions destabilizing the situation in Ukraine.”
The authorities have made it clear that the newly introduced amendment puts in place a stronger alignment of existing EU sanctions on Russia and Belarus.
“For Belarus, the measures introduce SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) prohibitions similar to those in the Russian regime, clarify that crypto assets fall under the scope of ‘transferable securities’ and further expand the existing financial restrictions by mirroring the measures already in place regarding Russia sanctions,” EC noted.
With the new measures now in place, financial institutions in Belarus, including Belagroprombank, Bank Darabyt, and the Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus, as well as their Belarusian subsidiaries, will no longer be able to access SWIFT services.
The latest sanctions come at the heels of NATO’s rejection of Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky’s request of a no-fly zone imposition on its airspace to halt Russia’s incessant airstrikes.
A vast array of global brands, including Mastercard, and Visa, amongst others, have since stopped servicing Russians, with those domiciled in the country suspending operations or closing shop entirely.
However, established cryptocurrency exchanges, like Coinbase, Binance, and Kraken, have made it clear that they will not place a blanket ban on their Russian clients or freeze the cryptoassets of innocent users.
“We don’t think there’s a high risk of Russian oligarchs using crypto to avoid sanctions. Because it is an open ledger, trying to sneak lots of money through crypto would be more traceable than using U.S. dollars cash, art, gold, or other assets,” Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong declared in a Twitter thread on March 4.
“Some ordinary Russians are using crypto as a lifeline now that their currency has collapsed. Many of them likely oppose what their country is doing, and a ban would hurt them, too. That said, if the US government decides to impose a ban, we will of course follow those laws,” he added.