Russia Today, one of the country’s leading news sources, has just announced that its parliament intends to pass a ban on bitcoin within the next year and could do so as early as the next parliamentary session. This ban has been planned for a while, according to Russia’s deputy finance minister Aleksey Moiseev. He is quoted as saying,
“We will discuss this law in the current session of parliament, and possibly even pass it then, or at the very latest by spring next year. We are currently dealing with comments from the law enforcement agencies, about the specifics of legal measures, and we will take their remarks into account. But the overall concept of the law is set in stone.”
Drafts of the legislation have not been published, but generally speaking the ban would authorize officials to open criminal proceedings against anyone who mines or transacts with the digital currency. It would also allow the government to block any exchanges or online stores that accept it. While Russia has defended their actions by saying that they are “following Europe’s lead” on Bitcoin, no other European country has moved to ban the cryptocurrency. In fact, many are taking progressive stances on bitcoin legislation.
Russia’s reasons for pushing to criminalize cryptocurrencies, which would make it only the third country in the world after Ecuador and Bolivia to do so, are twofold. Officials reason that bitcoin’s anonymity and decentralized nature make it prone to illegal use, and that its price is too unreliable to make it a legitimate store of value.
This ban is only the latest in a series of anti-bitcoin statements from the Russian government. Russia has never welcomed any use of bitcoin, having released a statement from its central bank recommending that Russians be “wary” of cryptocurrencies in January.
Russia’s move has received heavy criticism from the bitcoin community, who have attacked the ban for its shortsightedness and probable ineffectiveness. Pro-bitcoin news site CryptoCoins News has gone as far as to compare this ban to Great Britain’s ban of the automobile in 1865, saying that fear shouldn’t be a reason to limit promising new technologies.
It remains to be seen whether Russia’s bitcoin ban will have any lasting international impact, but their declaration of a strong anti-bitcoin position is significant at a time when many countries are formulating their first official stance on cryptocurrencies.