Coint Telegraph: What is your relation to the Bitcoin Foundation (bitcoinfoundation.org)?
Igor Chepkasov: I am a member of Bitcoin Foundation and my hard work on behalf of this organization has not gone unnoticed. Recently, my main goal is to do everything possible to actively promote the philosophy and usage of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, particularly in Russia. And, of course, I’m also working towards establishing a fully functional branch of the Bitcoin Foundation in Russia. For this, we first created the "1st Bitcoin center" in Russia as an independent business unit and Professional market participant (www.BitcoinRussia.org) and later founded the Crypto Currencies Foundation Russia as a kind of unifying force and a regulator capable of performing the functions of lobbying and arbitration.
CT: Do you think Bitcoin and other crypotcurrencies have a big future in Russia? How do you envision it?
IC: Optimists always see the glass as half full as you know. We are realists and, therefore, we’re well aware of the "features of Russian reality." Bitcoin undoubtedly has a great future – that's why I’m in this business. As for Russia, it is also perfectly reasonable and the people here understand [the possibilities of cryptocurrencies] and their potential benefits.
CT: Do you anticipate any conflict with Russian authorities since the Bank of Russia has banned any "surrogate currencies" in the Russian Federation?
IC: The conflict is always moving forward. Russian authorities differ from Western governments in that they first say and do, and then think. Unfortunately, most Russian authorities are either thinking too late or refuse to use common sense. Russia is a country whose senses have been heightened after the crackdown [on Moscow protests] so we are used to [interference from the authorities]. In addition to this business, I’m an opposition and human rights activist – therefore, who would know better that the state is a repressive machine if not me?
We had studied the legal and regulatory framework. We have experience in dealing with officials and representatives of the political and regulatory circles. Our immediate plans are to prepare the framework for the “legalization" of cryptocurrencies in Russia, for which we have plenty of competent lawyers and experienced cryptocurrency-market professionals. Together, we will achieve the desired result. And we are engaged in parallel promotion of both Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. We are planning to hold seminars and prepare a large conference in St. Petersburg to establish a useful contact network.
CT: What do you think about Russian authorities closing down the Moscow Bitcoin Conference that was supposed to be held back in March?
IC: I’ve already stated my position on the Russian authorities, so we can assume that I answered this question too. I will only add that in January of this year the Central Bank of Russia said that the Russian government will treat any transactions involving Bitcoin as potential money laundering or financing of terrorism. However, a month later, government officials relented towards cryptocurrencies, refusing to accept a total ban of Bitcoin. Now these same officials are [working] under a new slogan of "Let's regulate, not ban". Well, we know about their delayed thought process. Therefore, we have carte blanche to act and that is what we will do.
CT: Do you know of any businesses in Russia that are currently accepting Bitcoin or have expressed interest in accepting Bitcoin?
IC: In the global rankings, with respect to the number of users of Bitcoin, Russia ranked fifth with 204,502 users – a number which is increasing by the day. I personally know of several cases of Russian firms using Bitcoin in their activities. Unfortunately, most of them are reluctant to reveal their loyalty to cryptocurrencies, but this is easily remedied. Among those who are not "hiding", for example, is "Money OK!” – a financial supermarket (www.MoneyOK.info) in St. Petersburg (credit brokerage, insurance, legal and accounting services). I also know of an online children's clothes shop in Siberia that accepts Bitcoin while in the South of Russia, there are several cafes accepting payments in Bitcoin. And again in St. Petersburg, one famous restaurant chain accepted Bitcoin for a whole year and in total earned an equivalent of about $US 900. But immediately after the sensationalist statements came out from the Central Bank of Russia, they stopped taking Bitcoin and the owner of the restaurant chain told reporters that he "did not want to deal with this nonsense.” He was afraid, I believe.
We have just announced the creation of the Crypto Currencies Foundation Russia two days ago, and a large number of people have already sent in applications for admission wanting to work with us. People have shown their support and business owners have expressed a great desire to use Bitcoin and started to move towards this goal with our direct assistance. So this is already a sign of success and that everything is just beginning.