Australia’s major cryptocurrency exchanges have not said whether they’ll freeze accounts linked to Russian users as Ukraine pleads with them to do so.
While some have turned to cryptocurrencies amid the Russia-Ukraine invasion, Ukraine’s Vice-Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov called for cryptocurrency exchanges — which are services used to buy and sell cryptocurrencies — to block Russian users, going beyond targeted sanctions to Russian individuals.
I’m asking all major crypto exchanges to block addresses of Russian users.
It’s crucial to freeze not only the addresses linked to Russian and Belarusian politicians, but also to sabotage ordinary users.
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— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) February 27, 2022
“It’s crucial to freeze not only the addresses linked to Russian and Belarusian politicians, but also to sabotage ordinary users,” he tweeted on Monday.
Earlier on Tuesday Vice reported that the world’s major cryptocurrency exchanges were refusing to heed this call.
The CEO for US-based Kraken Exchange Jesse Powell told Vice that such as request went against Bitcoin’s libertarian values and the company’s mission to bring people into the “world of crypto, where arbitrary lines on maps no longer matter, where they don’t have to worry about being caught in broad, indiscriminate wealth confiscation”.
Likewise Australia’s major cryptocurrency exchanges have shown no interest in such a move.
A spokesperson for Australian cryptocurrency exchange Independent Reserve told Crikey that the company always abides by Australian laws and regulations but would not comment on the suggestion of freezing Russian accounts.
Another smaller exchange, Digital Surge, said it had not frozen any accounts linked to Russia, citing having “a majority of our customers here in Australia”.
Neither Swyftx nor Coinstash responded to requests for comment via email or a chat function on their website.
While experts have pooh-poohed the idea that cryptocurrency could be used to evade sanctions due to the opaque nature of transactions, cryptocurrency exchanges in Australia must be registered with Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) which monitors for attempts to do so.
The Biden administration is reportedly working with crypto exchanges to ensure that they’re not being used to circumvent sanctions by Russia.
AUSTRAC has been contacted for comment.
This article was first published by Crikey.