The Russian parliament, the Duma, has ordered that “expert analytical research and opinion polls” relating to Blockchain will take place in 2018. This marks another point in Russia's increasingly formalised and regulatory approach to anything cryptocurrency related, motivated largely by a desire to investigate how cryptographic technology is used to launder the profits of organised crime.
The Duma’s financial markets committee and first vice-speaker, Aleksandr Zhukov, confirmed that the initiative is designed to research “standard legal regulation of Blockchain technology uptake on Russian financial markets based on global experience." This comes after a statement in October by Russian leader Vladimir Putin, where he asserted that Russia wanted to resolve some of the contradictions surrounding its regulation of cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin.
There seems to be a general air of confusion about how to approach the current regulatory framework around cryptocurrency in Russia. Government figures have issued several statements about the topic in recent weeks, often seeming to contradict each other.
Figures from the Russian central bank have issued warnings to consumers, strongly advising them not to purchase Bitcoin. Russia's deputy finance minister, Alexey Moiseev, has stated that Bitcoin is basically a "pyramid scheme", and told television channel Rossiya 24 that only people who are "qualified investors" should be able to buy Bitcoin.
“I said qualified investors and not private ones,” he said.
“For ordinary people, there’s no way because these are very dangerous investments that could lead to loss of money.”
Ex-finance minister Alexey Kudrin disagrees with that assertion, however, highlighting the contradictions which currently surrounds cryptocurrency in Russia.
The Russian General Prosecutor has also linked increased interest in Bitcoin with money laundering. With a new law against the use of VPNs to access government blocked websites also set to kick in during November, it will be interesting to see how things transpire over the next 12 months or so.