The Russian Central Bank is flip-flopping on cryptocurrencies and now says that bank accounts linked to virtual assets may be blocked.
The latest news comes from a new amendment to anti-money laundering (AML) guidelines in the country. New amendments by the Central Bank of Russia specifically mention crypto-assets in its criteria for freezing accounts.
Clarifying the new AML requirements in Russia, the country’s central bank is opening up its authority to freeze cryptocurrency-linked bank accounts. According to amendments published to regulation 375-P, such accounts might fall into the category of performing “dubious transactions.” [RBC]
The AML requirements in Russia have not been updated since 2012. The amendment now says that the purchase and sale of virtual assets will be considered as a basis for blocking bank accounts. The changes were pending for some time and the legal situation regarding cryptocurrencies in Russia is still unclear — as is whether any bank accounts linked to cryptocurrencies have already been frozen.
The new amendment to existing AML laws is a surprise to those who follow Russian policymaking.
In May 2019, the Russian Prime Minister said at the St. Petersburg International Legal Forum that cryptocurrencies are “no longer as relevant” and that their popularity as “declined,” as reported by BeInCrypto Russia. Many interpreted this to mean that the government was no longer focused on blockchain technology and its regulatory environment.
That does not seem to be the case as the country’s Central Bank has officially included ‘virtual assets’ as criteria for freezing bank accounts. It remains to be seen whether this is the start of a further crackdown on cryptocurrency holders, but the situation is concerning.
Although such a large part of the blockchain industry is based in Russia, state authorities seem intent on cracking down on this sector. Still, that has not stopped exchanges from expanding their services in Russia. Earlier this month, Binance announced that Russians can now buy cryptocurrencies directly with the Russian ruble.