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Key Words: ‘It’s not our decision to make to freeze user accounts,’ says Binance CEO, rejecting calls to ban Russian accounts

Changpeng Zhao, chief executive at the world’s largest crypto exchange Binance, said “it’s not our decision to make to freeze user accounts,” rejecting calls for major crypto exchanges to ban all Russian users, after Russia invaded Ukraine.

“Facebook has not banned Russian users. Google has not blocked Russia. The United States has not done that. So we just follow rules we don’t make,” Zhao said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Wednesday.

Zhao said the exchange has been following international compliance requirements to take measures against sanctioned individuals and businesses, but hasn’t blocked addresses for all Russian users.

“From an ethical point of view, many Russians do not support this war. So I think we should separate the politicians to the normal people,” Zhao told Bloomberg.

“And it probably [will] just move those users to other smaller platforms that are less compliant and may not even have mandatory KYC,” Zhao said, referring to know-your-client finance rules.

Zhao made those comments as Mykhailo Fedorov, vice prime minister of Ukraine on Sunday called all major crypto exchanges to block addresses of Russian users. “It’s crucial to freeze not only the addresses linked to Russian and Belarusian politicians, but also to sabotage ordinary users,” Fedorov tweeted. 

There has been some speculation that crypto could offer Moscow some leeway, as the U.S. and its allies levied a series of sanctions against Russia, aiming to restrict Russia’s access to global financial markets.

Read: Can Russia use cryptocurrencies to evade Western sanctions? Likely, to some extent, but it’s ‘very hard to do at scale,’ says one analyst

Since Moscow laid siege to Kyiv, trading volumes of bitcoin and stablecoin USDT have surged in Russia on Binance. The trading volume of USDT, a dollar-pegged stablecoin, using ruble, hit an all-time high on Monday on Binance, according to data from Tradingview. 

Read more: As the ruble plunges to less than a penny, dealings surge in Ukraine and Russia currency for bitcoin and stablecoins

When asked whether crypto could be used to launder money and evade sanctions, Zhao said, “this is not a crypto-specific issue.”

“The essential things apply to banks and crypto at the same time. We’re following the same rules,” according to Zhao.

Global regulators have been paying increasing attention to the crypto space, which remains largely unregulated. European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde on Friday also called for regulations that prevent Russians to evade sanctions by using digital assets.

Bitcoin
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was trading at around $44,319, up 2.3% over the past 24 hours, according to CoinDesk data, at last check.  

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