[Update: The conversion for Bitcoin feature is reportedly working, albeit in English, according to some users on Yandex after the publishing of this article.]
Russian Deputy Finance Minister Aleksey Moiseev informed a reporter that the Russian government would be banning Bitcoin within one year. That was in September, only a month ago, and it seems that they are moving forward much more rapidly. The Russian news blog, bitmakler.com, announced on October 5th that the Finance ministry has proposed a fine of up to 1 million rubles for the “production and use of money surrogates in Russian”.
The Finance Ministry seems to be going much further than countries such as Bangladesh, which has threatened up to 12 years on prison for the use of Bitcoin. Along with penalties for use they are also penalizing the “dissemination of information, allowing them to issue”. Today we are seeing the potential effects of this law after several sites, including Yandex, Facebook Vkontakte, Twitter and Google + are reacting to the new law.
Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine was the first major search engine to include a Bitcoin conversion to their page. While it was only available on the Russian Yandex.ru (Not Yandex.com) the Russians beat even search giant Google to the punch. This changed this morning however when the feature simply disappeared from the page, likely in reaction to the new law and that last part which penalizes dissemination of information.
The fact is that The Russian government seems to be emulating the infamous Tajik laws that say it's illegal to do anything counter to the country's rulers or culture. We have been seeing a move in this direction for several months in not only finance but social issues as well after Russia began passing a wide range of anti-gay legislation which were remarkably similar in that they also criminalized any type of promotion of homosexuality as well as the acts themselves.
The announcement might not apply to other search engines and international services officially but many of these companies will likely be extremely skittish about operating in Russian or even with Russian citizens as a cautionary measure. Russia is one of the largest economies in the world but since the dissolution of the Soviet Union has faced a string of financial calamities. The recent attacks against cryptocurrencies could easily be seen as the government’s attempt to get control of their struggling economy. The fact that Yandex has decided to pull it support, however tenuous it was, is an indication that companies are simply not willing to take chances that their involvement or support can be seen in a negative manner by Moscow.
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