Have digital currencies really stolen Vladimir Putin’s heart?

If you’re talking economics in Russia these days, you won’t be able to avoid the matter of digital currency.

Leading online Russian news agency Lenta.ru’s economy lead on November 20 made no bones about the issue. “What will help Russia escape its oil dependence?” asked the headline. The vaunted solution: digital currencies.

Yet, despite Vice’s recent assertion that Russia has gone “all-in” on digital currencies, the Kremlin continues to deliver mixed messages. On the one hand, government officials will not stop berating digital currencies, claiming that they are the tools of money launderers and terrorists. But there are also signs that Russia might just be on the verge of embracing digital currencies – on an unprecedented scale.

Cause for concern?

Where does the negativity stem from? Well, for a start, the country’s Central Bank recently warned of “serious concerns over the risks of digital currencies,” claiming that terrorists can exploit them to their own ends, and berating “the highly volatile nature of the crypto-currency market.”

Officials have vowed that they will issue a comprehensive set of regulations before the year is out, and the Duma’s head of IT Leonid Levin said in September, “In a country where millions have suffered from pyramid schemes, we should not allow citizens to sell their apartments to make cryptocurrency investments.”

Last month, the central bank even said it would move to block access to online digital currency exchanges, and called bitcoin and other currencies “dubious.” […]

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