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Fintech

Russia and cryptocurrencies: will they, won’t they?

Anyone trying to keep track of attitudes to cryptocurrencies among Russian policymakers could be forgiven for feeling a trifle dizzy going into December.

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Over the past three months a seemingly endless and often contradictory series of pronouncements on the subject have emerged from the central bank, various ministries and the Kremlin itself. One day virtual currencies are a pyramid scheme and a facilitator of criminal activity, the next they are a valuable growth industry and potential funding tool. And vice versa.

Clearly, this dilemma is not unique to Russia. To date, the number of countries where politicians and regulators have come up with a clear stance on a new technology whose implications and indeed workings are little understood can be counted on the fingers of at most two hands.

Even in this confused environment, however, Russia’s flip-flopping has stood out – and all the more so because, until recently, the official line had been fairly consistent. Bitcoin was bad, mad and should be banned. More outspoken opponents were arguing for lengthy prison sentences for anyone caught messing with it.

Changing attitude

The first sign that attitudes were changing came in April, when the government announced plans to scrap a draft bill outlawing cryptocurrencies that had been in the works since 2014.

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