Russian Digital Assets: Cryptoruble In The Pipeline, EAEU Payments Network Possibly In Question

Russia’s proposed state-issued digital currency is coming, according to one of the country’s legislators.

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Russia’s proposed state-issued digital currency is coming, according to one of the country’s legislators. However, with SWIFT indicating that it has no plans to stop servicing Russian banks, it’s unclear whether another Russian proposal, for a payments network that would include it and several nearby countries, will continue to interest policymakers.

The head of the Committee on the Financial Market in Russia’s lower legislative chamber, Anatoly Aksakov, has said that the cryptoruble is on its way, although it will not make its debut in the coming year.

Speaking to attendees of the Yalta International Economic Forum, he revealed that the “Cryptoruble is not the next year, but it can happen quite quickly,” and apparently hinted that blockchain technology could one day encroach on areas that have historically been the domain of traditional payments systems.

After some equivocation on whether or not the plan for a government-issued digital currency was worthwhile, a bill defining the cryptoruble was submitted to the legislature on January 25.

Meanwhile, the interbank financial messaging system SWIFT, which offers technology that allows banks to transfer significant amounts of money across borders, has signaled that it does not intend to cut Russian banks out of its network.

Eddie Astanin, Russia’s representative on SWIFT’s board of directors, recently said that “SWIFT will not respond to attempts of pressure and calls to disconnect financial institutions from its network.”

On April 18, SWIFT CEO Gottfried Leibbrandt told those present at the Russian National SWIFT Association‘s annual general meeting that:

“Neutrality is integral to SWIFT, it’s one of our core principles. As a unique utility to the global economy, we believe in serving the global financial community in its entirety. Having as many customers on our network as possible is beneficial to everyone, and in the interests of all global economic flows.”

Questions over Russian banks’ continued membership in the network have swirled since 2014, when European Parliament encouraged member states to consider sanctioning Russia by excluding it from SWIFT. At the time, the Central Bank of Russia had indicated that it might introduce its own SWIFT alternative in response.

One avenue through which Russia had seemingly been pursuing this goal was by spearheading efforts to create an Ethereum-based, SWIFT-like network among the countries that comprise the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), namely itself, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Beyond concerns over its SWIFT membership, however, Russia may have other incentives for wanting to link its financial system to those of the former Soviet Socialist Republics. As such, SWIFT’s assurance of its continued inclusion in the network may not spell the end of Russian efforts to engage fellow EAEU countries in blockchain-based financial projects.

Indeed, comments made late last year by Olga Skorobogatova, the central bank’s first deputy governor, would seem to indicate Russian interest in a single cryptocurrency issued on behalf of all EAEU states and, potentially, Brazil, China, India, and South Africa as well. On February 2, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev urged the EAEU countries to cooperate on implementing a Union-wide cryptocurrency policy.


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