Is Russia wavering on its anti-Bitcoin stance?

Russia’s central bank offered a formal response to a letter written by a Russian citizen in February asking for more information on why the government allegedly banned cryptocurrencies earlier this year.

The bank contends that it did not ban Bitcoin outright but was committed to “combating crimes in the sphere of the economy devoted to the use of anonymous payment systems and cryptocurrencies on the territory of Russia.”

That doesn’t quite align with a February statement from the general prosecutor’s office:

“The anonymous payment systems and crypto-currencies, including bitcoin – which is the most popular of them – are monetary surrogates. As such, their use by private citizens or legal entities is not allowed.”

Either way, the bank’s statement seemed sufficient to downgrade Russia’s status on from “hostile” to “contentious.”

Below is the full text of the statement, translated into English, from the Bank of Russia (source).

Department of the Monetary Policy of the Bank of Russia has considered your appeal to the

President of the Russian Federation dated 07.02.2014 ? 105514 and in terms of its competence

informs the following.

General Prosecutor's Office of the Russian Federation, February 6, 2014 had a meeting of the expert group under the Interagency Working Group on combating crimes in the sphere of the economy devoted to the use of  anonymous payment systems and cryptocurrencies on the territory of  Russia.The work of this group was attended by representatives of the Bank of Russia.

One of the goals of the event was to develop a unified approach to the determination of the legal status of cryptocurrencies, also it was  discussed future directions for the legal regulation of the sphere of cryptocurrencies' using and development of measures to prevent the violation of property rights of citizens and organizations in this field.

Thus the position of the meeting was not to prohibit all operations related to cryptocurrencies, the main goal was the preparation and realization of a complex of measures to prevent  the use of cryptocurrencies in illegal operations, including those related to the legalization (laundering) of proceeds from crime, as well as improving the regulatory framework to protect the rights of citizens and organizations using cryptocurrencies.