Russia is being quick to implement the now-published small print of its anti-cryptocurrency mandate – but some of its policies are altogether more unappetizing.
Specifically, the law denounces “creation,” “distribution of software” and “deliberate dissemination” of “surrogate currencies,” and imposes fines for these activities by lay persons, officials and businesses of between 5,000 and 1 million rubles (US$125 – US$25,035).
The bill also highlights “new functions, powers, duties and rights of federal bodies of executive power” specifically Bank of Russia, the country’s central bank, and the Ministry of Communications and Mass Media (known as Minkomsvyaz).
This second act goes beyond placing criminal responsibility on those who deal in cryptocurrency and associated software. In a move which echoes the country’s recent contingency plans to shut off Russian access to the worldwide web in times of crisis, the legislation calls for “creating a mechanism to quickly block the information resources used for creation and circulation of surrogate currencies.”
Specifically, while Bank of Russia’s remit will be to “set the protocols for administrative breaches of law related to the issuing and use of surrogate currencies,” Minkomsvyaz will “block any information facilitating the issuing and use of surrogate currencies,” according to the summary text of the legislation.
A war on information such as this goes beyond the taciturn legislation put forward by many other critical state legislators. It is tantamount to a de facto ban on mining, forking existing currencies as well as all manner of media publication including books, magazines, websites, blogs, and forums. At the same time, however, it could be argued that it is no more feasible to ban such information than it is to ban the currencies themselves.
As was noted in our previous article on Russian censorship, Bitcoin’s infiltration of Russia, regardless of the climate, seems genuinely unstoppable if any interested parties remain. Attention should thus now turn to how the Bank’s policies will be implemented in real terms.
Meanwhile, it would appear that the Russian community is sensing the gravity of the situation. Reddit user r/efxco took to the forum to report how the Bitcoin topic at Russian mainstream ISP Ufanet is allegedly hedged to be deleted by moderators.
For r/efxco, the effect of the legislation will most likely be strengthened by the unwillingness of CEOs to adapt to new technologies.
“… It seems like our local companies are really go against any innovation, because they don't like the idea of something new,” he writes. “…The main people who oppose Bitcoin here - its the management of the company…”
Nonetheless, there seems to be little cause for panic. “I'm not scared at all. I'm frustrated,” r/efxco added - a tone echoed by the Cryptocurrency Foundation of Russia.
“Our partners are involved in negotiations with a number of government agencies, but so far it is to no avail,” CCFR Igor Chepkasov told CoinTelegraph via email. “As for our response to the ban, we will, at a minimum, organize country-wide protest … If peaceful means exhausted itself, we get to not peaceful [sic].”
While both regulators and the community step up their efforts, it seems for the meantime that the battle for Bitcoin in Russia is one of fighting talk. Chepkasov adds:
“The logic of Russian and illegitimate occupant of the authorities is that it is easier to restrict rather than to develop regulatory mechanisms.”