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CEO Armstrong says that Coinbase will not stop users in Russia from accessing the exchange’s services unless legislation requires it to.
According to Coinbase co-founder and CEO Brian Armstrong, the crypto exchange has no intentions to ban users in Russia. However, Armstrong added that his platform is open to complying with any directives by the US government to impose a ban. As he put it:
“We believe everyone deserves access to basic financial services unless the law says otherwise… If the U.S. government decides to impose a ban, we will of course follow those laws.”
Armstrong revealed Coinbase’s position in a series of tweets on Friday, also emphasizing that “some ordinary Russians” have become heavily reliant on crypto. This refers to the growing adoption of crypto in reaction to the recorded crash in the ruble. Furthermore, Armstrong suggested that many Russians likely oppose the brutal war actions of their country. He noted that these Russian citizens are victims of circumstances, and a ban would hurt them too.
Touching on the notion that Russian oligarchs (who are pro-government) may be using crypto to avoid sanctions, Armstrong is not convinced. The Coinbase CEO explained that the blockchain is an open ledger, and any attempt to siphon funds through will be easily traceable. Armstrong says that authorities can track crypto movements better than U.S. dollars cash, art, gold, or other assets.
Coinbase is not the only prominent crypto exchange to continue providing services to customers in Russia amid a major business boycott. A spokesperson for Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, also echoed Coinbase’s stance in a Friday email to Reuters. It read, “We are not going to unilaterally freeze millions of innocent users’ accounts.”
Whitebit Has a Different Policy Regarding Users in Russia
However, some other crypto exchanges seem to share a different view from Coinbase and Binance. In a media correspondence, WhiteBIT exchange touched on measures already taken against Russian users. According to the exchange:
“Procedures for checking for sanctions lists have been introduced, trading activities with RUB [Russian ruble] have been closed, and registration of users from the countries of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus have been suspended.”
Experts Comment on the Coinbase Position on Situation in Russia
Some experts have weighed in on the apparent unwillingness by Coinbase, Binance, and a few other exchanges to boycott services in Russia. According to these experts, it undermines Western attempts to alienate Russia and its allies from the rest of the world. The Eastern European powerhouse drew the ire of its Western counterparts on February 24th after it invaded neighboring Ukraine. Since then, Russia has received backlash from the global community and has brought increasing sanctions on itself.
Western heavyweights such as the US, Britain, and their allies have imposed increasingly stiff sweeping sanctions on Russia. The majority of these sanctions are targeting the Russian financial system in a bid to severely cripple it. For instance, Russian banks are no longer part of the SWIFT international payments system.