Crypto exchange Binance blocks Russian users targeted by sanctions
By Tom Wilson
LONDON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – Crypto exchange Binance is blocking the accounts of any Russian clients targeted by sanctions, it told Reuters on Monday, but will not freeze the accounts of others after Ukraine called for a block on Russian users at major digital currency platforms.
“We’re blocking accounts of those on the sanctions list (if they have Binance accounts) and ensuring that all sanctions are met in full,” a spokesperson for the company said on Monday, declining to give further details.
The United States, Britain, Europe and Canada announced new sanctions on Russia on Saturday, including blocking certain lenders’ access to the SWIFT international payment system, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said on Sunday he had requested major crypto exchanges to block the digital wallet addresses of Russian users, which allow transactions in crypto coins.
Fedorov, who is also minister of digital transformation, had on Saturday offered a “generous reward” for information on digital wallets held by Russian and Belarusian politicians.
“It’s crucial to freeze not only the addresses linked to Russian and Belarusian politicians, but also to sabotage ordinary users,” he wrote.
A separate Binance representative told Reuters: “We are not going to unilaterally freeze millions of innocent users’ accounts. Crypto was meant to provide greater financial freedom for people across the globe.”
Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, said last month it wanted to expand in Russia and neighbouring states. Russia is a major market for Binance, with over 113,000 members of its Russian-language Telegram channel.
Since 2019, Binance has allowed users to deposit and withdraw Russian roubles via payments company Advcash.
Advcash, which is headquartered in Belize, told Reuters that users would be able to continue to make instant deposits and withdrawals on Binance via its digital wallets.
“On our platform, some users may experience limitations arising from sanctions imposed on specific banks,” it added.
“Making sure our services are transparent, fully regulated and provided in accordance with all applicable laws is and has always been our top priority.”
(Reporting by Tom Wilson in London and Reuters in Moscow; Editing by David Goodman, Kirsten Donovan)