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Ukraine Is The Latest Country To Legalize Bitcoin, As The Cryptocurrency Slowly Goes Global

Unlike El Salvador’s move this week to adopt bitcoin as legal tender, Ukraine’s crypto law does not put bitcoin on an equal footing with the hryvnia, the country’s national currency. Ukraine Is The Latest Country To Legalize Bitcoin, As The Cryptocurrency Slowly Goes Global

Ukraine Is The Latest Country To Legalize Bitcoin, As The Cryptocurrency Slowly Goes Global

Ukraine is the fifth country in as many weeks to lay down some ground rules for the cryptocurrency market, a sign that governments around the world are realizing that bitcoin is here to stay.
In a nearly unanimous vote, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted a law that legalizes and regulates cryptocurrency. The bill was set in motion in 2020 — and it now heads to the desk of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.


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Until today, crypto in Ukraine has existed in a legal gray area.

Locals were allowed to buy and exchange virtual currencies, but companies and exchanges dealing in crypto were often under close watch by law enforcement.

According to the Kyiv Post, authorities have trended toward taking a combative stance when it comes to virtual cash, regarding it as a “scam,” raiding crypto-related businesses, and “often confiscating expensive equipment without any grounds.”

In August, for example, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) blocked a network of what it called “clandestine cryptocurrency exchanges” running in the capital city of Kyiv. The SBU claimed these exchanges were facilitating money laundering and providing anonymity of transactions.

The new legislation also spells out certain protections against fraud for those who own bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and lawmakers have taken a stab at defining core terminology in the world of crypto. If signed by the president, virtual assets, digital wallets, and private keys are terms that will be enshrined in Ukrainian law.

Unlike El Salvador’s move this week to adopt bitcoin as legal tender, Ukraine’s crypto law does not facilitate the rollout of bitcoin as a form of payment, nor does it put it on an equal footing with the hryvnia, the country’s national currency.

However, today’s vote by the former nuclear power is part of a wider push by Kyiv to lean into bitcoin.

By 2022, the country plans to open the cryptocurrency market to businesses and investors, according to the Kyiv Post. Top state officials have also been touting their crypto street cred to investors and venture capital funds in Silicon Valley.

On an official state visit to the U.S. last month, President Zelenskyy spoke of Ukraine’s budding “legal innovative market for virtual assets” as a selling point for investment, and Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation, said the country was modernizing its payment market so that its National Bank would be able to to issue digital currency.

But to bitcoin backers like Jeremy Rubin, Ukraine’s new law and political promises such as these don’t amount to much.

“Ukraine’s improved legal status for bitcoin is a laudable symbolic measure that we progress towards a world that respects individual rights universally,” said Rubin, CEO of bitcoin R&D lab Judica. “But it is only symbolic — bitcoin seeks neither permission nor forgiveness in its mission to protect persecuted communities from unjust governments.”

Just this week, El Salvador became the first country to both adopt bitcoin as legal tender and hold it on its balance sheet. President Nayib Bukele has essentially tethered his political fate to the outcome of this nationwide bitcoin experiment.

Two weeks ago, Cuba passed a law to recognize and regulate cryptocurrencies, citing “reasons of socioeconomic interest.”

Last month, the U.S. proposed rules around crypto “brokers” in its $1 trillion infrastructure bill, and a new German law now allows funds previously barred from investing in crypto to allocate up to 20 percent to virtual currencies like bitcoin.

Panama appears to be next on deck. The Central American country is kicking around a draft of its own cryptocurrency law.

Updated: 9-8-2020

Ukraine Leads Global Crypto Adoption, Chainalysis Says In New Report

 

Ukraine Is The Latest Country To Legalize Bitcoin, As The Cryptocurrency Slowly Goes Global

Ukraine, Russia and Venezuela are the top three countries by crypto adoption in the world, according to Chainalysis.

Developing countries are driving retail crypto adoption, and Ukraine is leading the way, according to a new report by blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis.

Ukraine, Russia and Venezuela are the top three countries for cryptocurrency adoption, Chainalysis said in its Global Cryptocurrency Adoption Index, published Tuesday as a part of the firm’s upcoming report on global trends in crypto usage.

The U.S. and China are still delivering the largest transaction volumes, but putting aside the largest “whale” crypto holders, Ukrainians, Russians and Venezuelans are the most active retail users of digital currencies, according to Chainalysis’ ranking. They are followed by China, Kenya and the U.S.

Chainalysis measured crypto adoption using on-chain cryptocurrency value received by a country, on-chain value transferred, number of on-chain cryptocurrency deposits and peer-to-peer exchange trade volume.

Ukraine Is The Latest Country To Legalize Bitcoin, As The Cryptocurrency Slowly Goes Global
The data was weighted by the purchasing power parity per capita and number of internet users in each country.

The list of “winners” might look surprising, but only at first glance, said Kim Grauer, head of research at Chainalysis. For example, Russia has a history of using e-payment services, Grauer explained. People are used to digital payments, so the transition to cryptocurrencies might be a bit more seamless.

Ukraine, for its part, has “a really tech-native population” she added, and both countries also have “a really industrious startup environment.” There is also more cybercrime activity in Eastern Europe than in other regions, which might add to the busy crypto market.

As CoinDesk previously reported, Ukraine is a hotbed for cryptocurrency adoption, with a tech-savvy population and crypto-curious government that is currently working on future regulations for the industry in cooperation with the local blockchain community.

The patterns for crypto usage varies from country to country. Ukraine and Russia are actively using crypto to send money for business-to-business and cross-border transactions, avoiding cumbersome banking regulations. In Venezuela, people use crypto more for savings and peer-to-peer trading.

“People in Venezuela don’t necessarily want to go to cryptocurrencies because it’s interesting or a cool thing to do, but because they are looking for a stable source of value,” Grauer said. She added that there is also an active remittance market between Venezuela and Argentina.

In Russia, Venezuela and Ukraine, crypto adoption is driven more by retail investors, while in China and the U.S., the crypto whales are the biggest drivers of growth, Grauer said.

“Looking at the share of the transfers greater than $100,000, we noticed that over the past year the share of the overall activity in North America that is professional has been growing,” she said.

Ukraine’s Crypto Game

Out of the three nations, Ukraine may be the most surprising leader because the country largely flies under the radar of the global crypto community. Located in Eastern Europe and with a population of 42 million, the nation has both an unstable economy and tech-savvy citizens, which apparently is a good recipe for crypto use.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation said there are several reasons for the popularity of crypto among Ukrainians: a big blockchain developer community and tech-savvy population in general, cumbersome regulations for export and import transactions and the absence of the stock market in the country. All of this is encouraging people to try out digital assets, the Ministry said in a blog post.

Michael Chobanyan, founder of Ukraine’s first crypto exchange, Kuna, said small businesses, which are using crypto to circumnavigate foreign currency regulations, might be turning around up to $5 million worth of crypto every week, according to a loose estimate.

They mostly pay for imports coming from Turkey and are using tether (USDT) in 90% of transactions, he added.

Retail Drive

There are many retail crypto investors in Ukraine, too, Chobanyan believes. Kuna sees about $800,000 worth of retail crypto trades daily, he said. And this is just a fraction of overall retail volume, given the popularity of exchanges like Binance and EXMO, as well as numerous cash over the counter dealers in the country.

Retail investors are interested in crypto as there are not many other options for savings and passive income in Ukraine. The economy is small and there is no national stock market. Banks often fail and investing in real estate is too expensive for most people, Chobanyan said.

Crypto, on the other hand, has a low barrier to entry, easier compliance requirements and is safer than just holding onto cash.

Alex Bornyakov, the deputy minister for digital transformation of Ukraine, believes that individuals, not businesses, are the most active crypto users in the country.

“They are using cryptocurrencies for small investments and trading,” he explained.

This is an educated guess so far, he admits, as there is no official statistics for cryptocurrency usage in the country.

Crypto, like U.S. dollars, is a hedge against the volatility of the national currency, Ukrainian hryvnia, and against the general instability of Ukraine’s political and economic situation, said Ukrainian Bitcoin Core developer Hennadii Stepanov, going by hebasto.

“Our situation is similar to that in Iran and Venezuela,” he said, adding: “Unlike gold, bitcoin is available for everyone.”

Adoption is limited, however, said Gleb Naumenko, another Bitcoin Core dev with Ukrainian origins.

“Many of my friends know somebody who invested [in crypto]. I see huge interest, but the technology is still lagging behind. It’s hard to use it, and that scares people away,” Naumenko said.

Pandemic Activation

According to Binance’s head for Russia and Ukraine, Gleb Kostarev, although Ukraine is not the biggest volume driver for Binance, it’s nonetheless one of the key markets for the exchange.

The firm is constantly working on new fiat on-ramps for the Ukrainian hryvnia and is actively cooperating with the Ukrainian government on future crypto regulation, Kostarev added.

For both Ukraine and Russia, the COVID-19 pandemic became a driver for adoption, as the pandemic hit both economies hard, Kostarev said. Isolated at home, people turned to crypto as a new source of income.

“The macroeconomic situation in Ukraine remains complicated, and during the coronavirus pandemic it got even worse. The government is working on new ways to stimulate the economy, while the young population has to search for new sources of income. This is one of the key reasons for Ukraine’s interest for crypto,” Kostarev said.

Kyrylo Chykhradze, product director for the analysis platform Crystal Blockchain, said Ukraine’s registered crypto businesses have processed only $300 million in bitcoin since 2015, a fraction of the $150 billion that passed through U.S. bitcoin markets over the same period.

However, the low numbers can be partly explained by the fact that Ukraine-based and Ukraine-oriented crypto enterprises often chose other jurisdictions to register, so officially they are not in Ukraine.

“There is still a lack of legal grounding as of yet on the digital asset front, which has resulted in local crypto businesses targeting other locations (such as the U.K. or Estonia) to operate from,” Chykhradze said. He added that the efforts to put crypto businesses into the legal field by the government can change the situation in the future.

Tricky Data

Quantifying crypto activity by country gets tricky, as individual bitcoin wallets aren’t marked with geographical locations.

Chainalysis admits that geographic data is hard to get right if you only look at on-chain transactions, so the firm requested data directly from the global P2P trading platforms, namely LocalBitcoins and Paxful, and talked to experts on the ground, Grauer said.

To see activity in particular countries, Chainalysis mostly looked at web traffic on the crypto trading, merchant, gambling and other services using SimilarWeb, Grauer explained.

If that data was not available, transaction data was analyzed using time zones, most popular fiat currency pairs, language options used and the location of the headquarters of the services.

Chainalysis also weights the numbers against each country’s purchasing power parity so that the poorer countries with more volatile currencies still can rank high if they are active in retail crypto trades (transactions worth less than $10,000).

This means the highest-ranking countries are not necessarily the ones with the largest crypto volumes. Rather, they are the countries where people put a larger share of their assets into cryptocurrency.

“Countries have different populations and different GDP, so if you’re just doing index without weights it’s all skewed towards China and the U.S.” Grauer said.

A country’s position in the ranking is not defined by any single factor, Grauer said.

“Ukraine and Russia are not number one in any of the submetrics but they are in the top 10 by the [crypto] value received and the number of crypto deposits, and they perform well across the board,” she said.

Updated: 9-9-2021

Ukraine Passes Legislation To Recognize And Regulate Crypto

Ukraine is hoping its new digital asset regulations will attract foreign crypto exchanges to set up shop in the Eastern European nation.

The Ukrainian Parliament has adopted legislation regulating foreign and domestic cryptocurrency exchanges operating from within the country.

On Wednesday, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted the draft law “On Virtual Assets,” legally recognizing cryptocurrency in the country for the first time. The legislation is based on the existing standards developed by the intergovernmental policy-making organization, Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF).

Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation will be tasked with overseeing the implementation of the new digital asset regulation and guiding the industry’s growth in adherence to international standards.

Anastasia Bratko of the Ministry of Digital Transformation said the law allows companies to launch digital asset markets in Ukraine and enables banks to “open accounts for crypto companies.”

“Ukrainians will also be able to declare their income in virtual assets,” she said, adding that the law “guarantees judicial protection of the rights to virtual asset owners.”

An announcement from the ministry emphasized that “the country will receive additional tax revenues to the budget, which will be paid by crypto companies,” adding:

“The adopted norms establish rules for service providers related to the circulation of virtual assets and contribute to the market’s de-shadowing.”

Virtual asset service providers (VASPs) “must have an impeccable business reputation” and will be required to disclose their ownership structure to identify their ultimate beneficial owners. Internal Anti-Money-Laundering measures must also be maintained by VASPs.

Oleksandr Bornyakov, deputy minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, highlighted provisions contained in the legislation to attract “foreign exchange to the Ukrainian market,” adding:

“It will become a powerful incentive for the further development of the crypto-sphere in Ukraine. Banks will open accounts for them and conduct transactions with a new class of assets. I am sure that society, business and the state will benefit from the legalization of the new sector of the economy.”

Last month, Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister and the head of the country’s Ministry of Digital Transformation, revealed that his ministry was exploring using a central bank digital currency to make salary payments in an early pilot of the technology.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a law enabling the country’s central bank to issue a CBDC in July.

Updated: 9-11-2021

IMF Mission May Start Ukraine’s Policy Review In 10-12 Days

The International Monetary Fund’s mission may start its review of Ukrainian government policies as soon as Sept. 21 as the country seeks to unlock a $5 billion loan frozen since last year.

The mission will probably work virtually because of the pandemic, Vladyslav Rashkovan, Ukraine’s representative at the Washington-based lender, told reporters at the YES conference in Kyiv.

Ukraine is struggling to unseal the aid program after earlier failing to meet conditions set by the IMF that included measures to combat corruption. The government may ask the lender to combine two tranches and to extend the program, which expires this year.

Financing from the European Commission of 600 million euros ($710 million) also hinges on Ukraine satisfying the IMF.

Updated: 9-21-2021

Central Bank Of Ukraine To Promote ‘Fair’ Bitcoin Regulation

Crypto doesn’t pose a big risk for the financial system until it’s adopted enough to be less volatile, the NBU said.

The central bank of Ukraine has moved to support the development of the cryptocurrency industry after the Ukrainian parliament adopted a major crypto law in early September.

The National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) issued an official statement on the basic principles of monetary policies for the upcoming year in which it paid particular attention to the regulation of cryptocurrencies on Sept. 13.

The central bank emphasized that the NBU recognizes the importance of technological innovations associated with virtual assets and sees “many promising opportunities,” like improving access to financial services and increasing competition in the payments market.

According to the NBU, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC) have not had a significant impact on the Ukrainian monetary policy and financial stability due to its current “relatively limited” adoption level and high price volatility.

However, as the bank is confident that further adoption growth would eventually make cryptocurrencies less volatile, the NBU will be taking certain measures to ensure financial stability.

As such, the NBU will “pay proper attention” to monitor the risks of the rapid adoption of crypto, particularly focusing on private stablecoins, a type of cryptocurrency pegged to an underlying asset like a fiat currency or a precious metal.

According to the bank, cryptocurrencies ultimately pose a potential risk of replacing the national currency and the “emergence of parallel money circulation” outside the control of the NBU. Other risks include foreign capital outflows, money laundering concerns, as well as “displacing traditional banking” as a whole.

In order to minimize these risks, the NBU will work to ensure that the Ukrainian hryvnia is the only legal tender in Ukraine, the authority said, adding that the central bank will still be committed to promoting crypto at the same time, stating:

“The National Bank will make efforts to build a system providing transparent and understandable state regulation that will promote the development of fair and efficient circulation of virtual assets.”

The NBU also noted that it would continue to study the international experience of developing a central bank digital currency (CBDC). As previously reported, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a law that officially enabled the NBU to issue a CBDC in July 2021.

The news comes after the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the draft bill “On Virtual Assets” on Sept. 8, granting legal recognition to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Despite not recognizing Bitcoin as legal tender, the legislation still allows crypto-based payments through converting crypto assets into fiat, according to some government officials.

Updated: 9-24-2021

Ukraine Joins The Comity Of Crypto-Friendly Nations With New Regulation

Unlike Russia, Ukraine has passed laws that will ease the adoption of cryptocurrencies within the country.

The legal status of cryptocurrencies remains a mixed bag of regulatory positions, depending on the jurisdiction being considered. While some countries move toward blanket prohibitions or stringent regulations, others elect to go with a more open approach to crypto.

For Ukraine, the latter path appears to be the case, with the government encouraging legalized crypto operations within the country. Ukraine’s seemingly positive stance on cryptocurrencies also stands in stark contrast with neighboring Russia where officials are enacting regulatory roadblocks against the ownership and use of digital currencies.

While Ukraine enacts laws to recognize and regulate crypto, the country’s central bank is also working on its own national digital currency. Central bank digital currency (CBDC) projects have become quite popular across the globe, often as a response to the proliferation of cryptocurrencies.

Some countries such as China and Nigeria with CBDC plans have been known to pass anti-crypto regulations. Global financial organizations like the Bank for International Settlements have also clamored for nations to use CBDCs to suppress the spread of “private” cryptocurrencies.

Draft Law On Virtual Assets

Earlier in September, Cointelegraph reported that the Ukrainian Parliament adopted the draft law “On Virtual Assets.” The legislative action meant official recognition of cryptocurrency in the country.

According to a release by Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation on Sept. 8, the draft law passed by the legislature was based on the crypto regulatory standards set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). As such, the guidelines contained in the new regulations mandate compliance with Anti-Money Laundering protocols.

Commenting on the passage of the draft bill, Oleksandr Bornyakov, deputy minister of the Ministry of Digital Transformation Ukraine, told Cointelegraph that government regulation was a necessary step in the growth and maturity of any emerging industry, adding:

“Establishing a virtual assets policy in Ukraine will enable the creation of a legal space for Ukrainian and international VASPs to officially register their businesses. This is also relevant in view of the fact that Ukraine’s potential as one of the leading countries in the field of virtual assets is huge. So, there is a clear need for crypto adoption in Ukraine.”

Bornyakov’s ministry will be tasked with implementing the crypto regulatory policies across Ukraine. The Ministry of Digital Transformation will also help to monitor the circulation of cryptocurrencies within the country in collaboration with the central bank.

In a conversation with Cointelegraph, Lucia della Ventura, legal and compliance manager at treasury technology specialist Ledgermatic, commented on the legalization of crypto in Ukraine, stating, “The main purpose of the Ukraine bill is to provide a secure space for the introduction of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in the country, which have a legal definition now, with rules that determine their use.”

According to della Ventura, passing the bill will offer legal certainty for crypto companies in Ukraine, adding:

“With parliament’s green light for this law, individuals and companies are adequately protected as the bill provides more clarifications on financial aspects and officially allows cryptocurrency companies to operate within the country.”

Legalized Crypto Trading In Ukraine

With the passage of the draft law in only its second reading, lawmakers in Ukraine have effectively kickstarted the legalization of the country’s crypto market, which had previously existed within a regulatory “gray area.” By recognizing cryptocurrencies, exchanges and other virtual asset service providers (VASP) can now establish banking relationships with commercial banks in Ukraine.

Access to banking services could incentivize foreign crypto businesses to set up shop in Ukraine, a situation that Mykhailo Fedorov, vice prime minister of Ukraine and head of the Ministry of Digital Transformation, said could help transform the country into a hub for cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.

“Soon, foreign and Ukrainian services related to the circulation of virtual assets, in particular, crypto exchanges, will be able to officially operate in our jurisdiction,” the Digital Transformation announcement stated.

According to Bornyakov, banks interacting with crypto businesses will open up new opportunities for the Ukrainian people, especially in the digital finance sector.

As quoted in the Sept. 8 announcement, the deputy minister of Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation stated that the legalization of crypto will serve as a “powerful incentive” for further develop the country’s cryptocurrency space.

“We believe that the virtual assets market can jumpstart a digital economy in Ukraine,” Bornyakov told Cointelegraph, adding:

“The Ukrainian virtual asset market is already quite well-developed and large even on a global scale. Developing the virtual assets industry is among the Ukrainian government’s top priorities. Therefore, we strive to create a truly favorable regulatory and tax framework for conducting crypto business in Ukraine.”

Foreign crypto exchanges operating legally in Ukraine could also be a net positive for attracting overseas investment into the country’s digital economy. With stricter regulatory guidelines emerging in several jurisdictions, Ukraine’s recognition of digital assets could drive cryptocurrency businesses to move into the country.

VASPs looking to establish a presence in Ukraine under the new regulatory paradigm will reportedly have to provide information about their ownership structures. Indeed, only owners with an “impeccable business reputation” will be allowed to run crypto-based firms in the country.

In August, the Security Service of Ukraine shut down a network of clandestine crypto exchanges believed to be involved in illegal financial activities since the start of 2021. These platforms were reportedly funneling funds from banned Russian payment processors such as Yandex, WebMoney and Qiwi.

Ukrainian authorities are also keen for these VASPs to create internal financial monitoring protocols as a way of ensuring compliance with Anti-Money Laundering policies. The central bank has also stated its commitment to promoting fair crypto regulations in the country.

In an official statement from the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU), the country’s central bank stated plans to focus on crypto regulations. As part of the document, the NBU recognized the promising opportunities provided by cryptocurrencies especially in the payments market.

With parliament recognizing cryptocurrencies, the NBU said it would monitor the risks associated with the rapid proliferation of digital currencies in the country with a special focus on stablecoins. Indeed, stablecoins have become a subject of significant regulatory scrutiny in many countries, including the United States.

Bitcoin: No Middle Ground

The attitude shown toward Bitcoin (BTC) and crypto in general by governments seems to be shifting toward absolutes — for or against — with nuanced positions in danger of extinction as far as state actors are concerned.

While not in the same category as El Salvador’s Bitcoin Law, Ukraine legalizing cryptocurrencies put the country in a small group of nations passing laws to foster digital currency adoption within its borders.

With Ukraine’s central bank also reportedly planning to issue a CBDC, the move to legalize cryptocurrencies offers a departure from the regulatory route taken by other nations with active sovereign digital currency projects.

While China has long enacted strict crypto-control policies, banning trading and token fundraises back in 2017, Beijing seemingly upped the ante on its cryptocurrency crackdown once its digital yuan project began entering public testing phases.

The People’s Bank of China (PBoC) has stated on numerous occasions that its digital currency electronic payment project is a direct response to privately issued cryptocurrencies. Indeed, the PBoC joined the chorus of central bankers who warned against the potential of the Facebook-backed Diem project to upend sovereign monetary policy control protocols.

Middle-ground crypto-related regulations appear to be disappearing rapidly, with nations falling into one of two extreme categories when it comes to dealing with cryptocurrencies. El Salvador’s adoption of Bitcoin as legal tender is already being touted as the inspiration for other countries in Central and South America to pursue a similar course of action.

Earlier in September, Cuba’s crypto regulations enacted by the country’s central bank came into effect. Thus, cryptocurrencies can now be used for investments and commercial transactions in Cuba, with exchanges and other VASPs falling under a new licensing regime.

In Ukraine, the country’s Ministry of Digital Transformation is already looking at possible early use cases for the digital hryvnia CBDC. Fedorov has already put forward the argument for the proposed CBDC to be used in paying staff salaries at the ministry.

Back in August, the country’s vice prime minister stated that using the digital hryvnia to pay wages of government workers would be a suitable pilot scheme for the CBDC. According to Fedorov, such a testing route would provide a controlled use case for the digital currency and a more suitable pilot scheme rather than a public beta rollout.

If the move does pull through, Ukraine will join the likes of China in using the payment of government workers as a testing ground for CBDC deployment.

With policymakers in both government and international financial regulatory establishments espousing anti-crypto sentiments, industry groups and allied bodies are also working to foster better dialogs of the important issues.

It has become common for blockchain organizations to publish policy toolkits to help lawmakers and regulators better understand the cryptocurrency industry.

Critics of the perceived heavy-handed approach to crypto policing say such measures will stifle digital innovation, forcing companies to move their businesses elsewhere. Countries like Ukraine that are enacting fairer regulatory policies may stand to gain from restrictive crypto laws enacted by the United States and Europe.

Updated: 10-6-2021

Ukrainian President Returns Virtual Asset Bill To Parliament For Revision

Volodymyr Zelensky did not object to the bill’s fundamental principles, but opposed the idea of creating a new watchdog agency.

Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine, has delayed signing a bill that would establish the nation’s regulatory framework around digital assets. The draft law, entitled “On virtual assets,” secured parliamentary approval on Sept. 8.

However, according to an Oct. 5 statement issued by the presidential office, Zelensky remitted the legislation back to the parliament alongside a number of proposed improvements.

As per the statement, the president’s major objection to the legislation in its current shape is the costliness of establishing a new regulatory body for digital asset oversight:

According to the legislation, regulation of the virtual assets market is to be carried out by various state bodies depending on the type of such assets, particularly by creating a new executive body. The creation of a new body, as provided by this law, will require significant expenditures from the state budget.

In lieu of creating a separate executive agency focused on digital assets, Zelensky proposes to place them under the purview of the existing National Commission on Securities and Stock Market, a watchdog agency that is, according to its charter, “subordinated to the President of Ukraine and accountable to the Verkhovna Rada,” the nation’s parliament.

The development appears to reflect the Ukrainian authorities’ pragmatic search for the most practicable implementation of a digital asset regulatory regime rather than a reversal of the nation’s forward-looking stance on crypto.

Ukraine’s President Rejects Crypto Bill, Demands Changes

Volodymyr Zelensky wants the country’s securities commission to regulate crypto.

Ukraine’s yearlong marathon to legalize cryptocurrencies has taken a detour. Instead of signing the country’s first bill regulating digital assets into law, President Volodymyr Zelensky returned it to the parliament for changes.

According to an announcement on the president’s website, Zelensky wants the bill changed so that the National Commission on Securities and Stock Market, Ukraine’s equivalent to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, becomes the main crypto regulator.

The current version has the Ministry of Digital Transformation regulating cryptocurrencies, the National Commission on Securities and Stock Market regulating digital assets backed by securities and the National Bank of Ukraine in charge of central bank digital currency (CBDC) issuance.

The version proposed by the president leaves CBDC supervision to the National Bank, but everything else goes to the securities regulator, including the licensing of the crypto brokers and other services.

“In particular, the public reports of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) state that certain types of virtual assets contain, in their economic essence, features characteristic of financial instruments.

Regulation of issuance of such types of virtual assets should be carried out by financial market regulators, as this function is specific to them,” said the president’s message to parliament, which was published on the legislature’s website.

Parliament will now have to give the bill another hearing and suggest a new version.

The bill, introduced to the parliament last summer, was created with input from the local crypto community. The document passed a second hearing in September and was sent to Zelensky for signing into law.

Ukraine is home to multiple well-known blockchain developers and startups. However, the country is struggling with its status as a risky jurisdiction on the global market. The bill, sponsored by Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation, is aimed at developing the digital assets market and attracting crypto businesses to the country.

Cutting Out Russia

The law defines digital assets as non-material goods that have a value and are represented by “a set of data in electronic form.” Digital assets are divided in two groups: those that are backed by other assets and those are not. Digital assets can not be used to pay directly for goods and services in Ukraine.

Digital assets also include the CBDC, which the central bank can issue, according to the recently adopted On Payment Services law.

The new bill defines legal ownership of a digital asset as control over its keys, unless they were stolen or held by a custodian, either due to an agreement with the owner or a court decision. The document also details basic rules of operation for businesses working with digital assets in Ukraine.

As the bill moved through the legislative process in the Verkhovna Rada, the initial text was updated to say that no crypto company having beneficiaries or executives in the “aggressor state,” can do business in Ukraine.

By the “aggressor state” the authors mean Russia, the Ministry of Digital Transformation confirmed to CoinDesk. The country’s neighbor to the east made its presence felt seven years ago, annexing the Crimea peninsula and fueling simmering civil unrest in the eastern part of Ukraine with weaponry and unidentified troops.

Updated: 2-17-2022

Ukraine Parliament Legalizes Cryptocurrencies

The Ukrainian parliament backed in final reading a bill to legalize cryptocurrencies, Mykhaylo Fedorov, Ukrainian minister of digital transformation, said in a statement.

Ukraine Is The Latest Country To Legalize Bitcoin, As The Cryptocurrency Slowly Goes Global

Fedorov said the new law will help bring the sector out of the shadows. Crypto exchanges will be able to operate legally and assets in cryptocurrencies will be protected, he said.

Required changes to tax code and civil code are being prepared for a full-fledged market of virtual assets.

Updated: 2-23-2022

‘Glory To Ukraine:’ Russian-Born Ethereum Creator Vitalik Buterin Says ‘Very Upset By Putin’s Decision’

Ukraine Is The Latest Country To Legalize Bitcoin, As The Cryptocurrency Slowly Goes Global

Ethereum ETH co-creator Vitalik Buterin has criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine, calling it a “crime against the Ukrainian and Russian people.”

What Happened: Buterin, who was born in Russia and grew up in Canada, said on Twitter that he was very upset by Putin’s decision to go to war by abandoning the possibility of a peaceful solution to the dispute with Ukraine.

“I want to wish everyone security, although I know there will be no security. Glory to Ukraine,” Buterin said in Russian, as per a machine-translated version.

“I want to wish everyone security, although I know that there will be no security,” the Ethereum co-founder added. “Glory to Ukraine.”

 

 

Taiwan To Join In U.S.-Led Sanctions On Russia

Western allies see Kyiv poised to fall to Russian forces soon as fighting continued after President Joe Biden announced additional sanctions on Russia, and said Europe is facing “a dangerous moment.”

Russian troops attacked Ukraine from the north, south and east, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s defense chief predicted a new wave of attacks. Zelenskiy said 137 of his country’s soldiers have been killed so far, Tass reported.

The Biden administration said the U.S. was preparing to accept Ukrainians who were fleeing the violence, as America’s partners in Europe and Japan announced new economic penalties. Taiwan plans to hit Russia with sanctions and called for an end to the attack on Ukraine, a nation that shares similar security worries as the democratically run island.

Taiwan plans to slap sanctions on Russia, with its presidential office condemning Moscow for “violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and damaging regional and global peace and stability.”

Taiwan shares similar security concerns with Ukraine because China’s Communist Party sees the island as part of its territory despite never having ruled it and seeks to block its official interactions with other countries.

Russian Market Rout Wipes $200 Billion From Stocks; Bonds Dive

* Central Bank Takes Emergency Steps As Sanctions Threat Spirals
* Stocks Collapse Is Third-Worst In History Of Markets

Russian assets nosedived as military attacks across Ukraine prompted emergency central bank action and additional sanctions from the U.S., wiping out almost $200 billion in stock-market value and roughly a third of the sovereign debt’s value.

The ruble sank to a record low, the cost of insuring Russian debt against default soared to the highest since 2009, and stocks ended the main trading session down 33% — their biggest-ever retreat. The Bank of Russia said it will intervene in the foreign exchange market for the first time in years and take measures to tame volatility.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced on Thursday afternoon additional sanctions on Russian banks and said the U.S. would release more strategic oil as conditions warrant. Vladimir Putin’s operation to “demilitarize” Russia’s neighbor shook global markets and spurred a flight to safety as Ukrainian and Russian assets took the main blow. The slump in Russian stocks was the third-worst in the history of markets, while Ukrainian default swaps signaled a 90% chance of default.

The nation’s most liquid sovereign dollar-denominated bonds, meanwhile, lost about a third of their value on Thursday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The ten Russian notes included in a benchmark Bloomberg index of emerging-market sovereign debt lost more than $9 billion in value combined, using indicative prices for the day as trading dried up.

The Russian central bank made no mention of raising interest rates, but said it will provide additional liquidity to banks by offering 1 trillion rubles ($11.8 billion) in an overnight repo auction. Policy makers have increased the benchmark rate by 525 basis points in the past 12 months to tame inflation.

Shares of Sberbank PJSC, Russia’s biggest lender, were down 42%, while natural-gas giant Gazprom PJSC traded 35% weaker.

East Europe Declines

Russia’s sovereign bonds plummeted, taking some to distressed levels, and the nation’s credit-default swap premium soared above 750. Ukraine’s 2033 dollar debt dived, lifting the yield to 88%, while the local currency market was suspended and limits were imposed on daily cash withdrawals. Stocks in Warsaw tumbled the most in almost two years.

The yield on 10-year ruble bonds was up 129 basis points at 12.16%. In penalties announced before Russia’s attack, many U.S.-related investors would be barred from buying Russian government bonds sold after March 1 in the secondary market.

The ruble pared losses earlier on Thursday before resuming its slump and reaching a record low. The currency traded 3.5% weaker at 84.1150 per dollar as of 2:09 p.m. in New York.

“If the central bank is in the market then it’s doing so carefully,” said Georgy Vashchenko, head of trading operations at the Freedom Finance brokerage. “The ruble will most likely remain under pressure in the near future, but the Bank of Russia is ready to smooth out any emergencies.”

So far, the response by the central bank is more measured than eight years ago when the conflict in Ukraine first flared.

Policy makers raised rates on the first working day after Russia’s parliament approved the use of its military in Ukraine in 2014.

With oil prices falling later in the same year, the Bank of Russia ended up lifting its key rate to as high as 17% to defuse a currency crisis.

An increase in borrowing costs may be off the table for now, though a decision to hike rates in the future hinges on how the ruble fares, according to Piotr Matys, a senior currency strategist at InTouch Capital Markets Ltd. in London.

Should the ruble “relatively quickly reach and exceed” 100 against the dollar, the possibility of a rate hike may come into play, he said. Currency options see a more than 50% probability of the ruble touching 100 per dollar in the second quarter, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

“The pace and the scale of ruble depreciation will be crucial,” he said. “Currency intervention is the first line of defense and the central bank amassed significant FX reserves to allow it to step in to slow down the pace of ruble depreciation. The second line of defense would be an emergency rate hike as witnessed at the height of the previous ruble crisis in 2014.”

Biden promised to inflict a “severe cost on the Russian economy” in a speech from the White House on Thursday. He also announced that the U.S. would be sanctioning Sberbank– Russia’s largest lender — and four other financial institutions that represent an estimated $1 trillion in assets, as well as a broad swath of Russian elites and their family members.

On Tuesday, the U.S. President had set out a partial “first tranche” of sanctions — a modest package that underwhelmed political observers and financial markets — then followed up with additional measures the following day, including sanctions against Nord Stream 2 AG, the company that built the $11 billion natural gas pipeline connecting Russia and Germany.

Russia’s central bank, which last conducted direct currency interventions in 2014, can resort to other measures to calm the market. Sofya Donets, economist at Renaissance Capital in Moscow, said its options include the possibility of imposing restrictions on cross-border capital flow and assets purchases, focusing especially on domestic ruble debt.

“It’s possible to assume, under the current scenario, that sanctions will be maximally tough,” bringing the central bank’s “political motivations” to the forefront, she said. “That makes them less predictable.”

Updated: 2-23-2022

Ukraine Crisis Kicks Off New Superpower Struggle Among U.S., Russia And China

Beijing and Moscow now hold a stronger hand in confronting the West than during the Cold War.

Russia’s audacious military assault on Ukraine is the first major clash marking a new order in international politics, with three major powers jostling for position in ways that threaten America’s primacy.

The challenges are different than those the U.S. and its network of alliances faced in the Cold War. Russia and China have built a thriving partnership based in part on a shared interest in diminishing U.S. power. Unlike the Sino-Soviet bloc of the 1950s, Russia is a critical gas supplier to Europe, while China isn’t an impoverished, war-ravaged partner but the world’s manufacturing powerhouse with an expanding military.

In deploying a huge force and on Thursday ordering what he called a “special military operation,” Russian President Vladimir Putin is demanding that the West rewrite the post-Cold War security arrangements for Europe and demonstrated that Russia has the military capability to impose its will despite Western objections and economic sanctions.

To do this, Mr. Putin shifted military units from Russia’s border with China, showing confidence in his relations with Beijing. The two powers, in effect, are coordinating to reshape the global order to their advantage, though their ties stop short of a formal alliance.

This emerging order leaves the U.S. contending with two adversaries at once in geographically disparate parts of the world where America has close partners and deep economic and political interests. The Biden administration now faces big decisions on whether to regear its priorities, step up military spending, demand allies contribute more, station additional forces abroad and develop more diverse energy sources to reduce Europe’s dependence on Moscow.

“We all thought we were looking at a Europe whole, free and at peace indefinitely,” said Michele Flournoy, who served as the Pentagon’s top policy official during the Obama administration. “We knew that Russia would conduct gray zone operations and that Putin would use his KGB playbook to create instability on his periphery. But a wholesale invasion of a sovereign country to reorient its government is a different moment.”

“And we’re seeing that while Beijing doesn’t really like Putin’s tactics, they’re willing to band together as authoritarian states against the Western democracies,” Ms. Flournoy added. “We are going to see more and more of that in the future.”

The U.S. predicament in part grew out of moves by Washington at the end of the Cold War. As the globe’s sole superpower, the U.S. pushed to promote democracy around the world and expand the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the key Cold War military alliance in Europe, to include former members of the Kremlin-dominated Warsaw Pact and some former Soviet republics. That responded to the decades-old yearnings of East European nations to be free of Moscow’s dominion.

Mr. Putin, however, saw his rivalry with the West as a zero-sum game and set about moving Russia toward its Soviet-era prominence, with greater say over the nations on its periphery.

China’s Communist Party leadership also saw pro-democracy protest movements in former Soviet republics as U.S.-engineered plots that could ultimately be used against Beijing. In response, China’s leadership tightened controls at home while redoubling a military buildup—trends that accelerated when Xi Jinping took charge a decade ago.

When pro-democracy protesters rose up in Hong Kong, Mr. Xi imposed harsh security laws, brushing off agreements his predecessors made giving autonomy to the former British colony and international financial center.

For much of the past decade, the U.S. security establishment began taking note of what the Pentagon in 2015 called the “re-emergence of great power competition” and shifted from its emphasis of counterterrorism operations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.

In setting priorities as the Pentagon seeks to retool for future conflicts, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has repeatedly cast China as the “pacing challenge” while Russia was seen as the lesser longer-term danger.

The projection matched President Biden’s priorities even as he pledged to buttress the world’s democracies. He took office wanting to focus on the pandemic, the economy and other domestic issues, promising a “middle class” foreign policy that would deliver returns for Americans after costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Managing relations with Moscow would help the administration concentrate on the military, economic and technological competition with Beijing.

Toward this end, Mr. Biden held a summit meeting in June with Mr. Putin to forge what the White House called a “stable, predictable” relationship. To put guardrails on relations with Moscow, Mr. Biden agreed to a five-year extension of the New START treaty limiting long-range U.S. and Russian nuclear arms.

The White House also directed the Pentagon to explore using Russian bases in Central Asia to prevent the re-emergence of a terrorist threat in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Mr. Putin, however, tried to take advantage of Washington’s focus elsewhere to pursue his agenda of bringing Belarus and Ukraine into Moscow’s sphere of influence, most notably with Russia’s major military buildup on the doorstep of the U.S.’s European allies and its new assault on Ukraine.

Even with annual defense budgets that soared over $700 billion, coping with an urgent Russian-generated crisis while preparing for a Chinese threat whose peak is still years away presents an enormous challenge for the Pentagon.

“The United States is particularly at risk of being overwhelmed should its military be forced to fight on two or more fronts simultaneously,” said a congressionally mandated study of the Pentagon’s strategy that was issued in 2018 by former military officers and defense officials. One of them, Kathleen Hicks, is now President Biden’s deputy defense secretary directing the agency’s programs and plans.

The crisis is already leading the U.S. to move more troops to Europe and will likely prompt it to rethink defense spending levels and perhaps even the size of its armed forces. The era of nuclear reductions may come to an end as the U.S. military establishment argues for a large enough nuclear arsenal to deter both Russia’s formidable nuclear weaponry and China’s rapidly growing nuclear forces, which aren’t limited by any arms-control agreement.

Having to counter both Russia and China will also lead the Biden administration to lean more heavily on the alliances the U.S. has used to augment its global power.

When Messrs. Putin and Xi held a summit in Beijing earlier this month, a 5,300-word statement they released afterward took aim at NATO as well as U.S. alliances with Australia and others in Asia for seeking “unilateral military advantages to the detriment of the security of others.”

China has reinforced military outposts in the South China Sea, a vital global sea lane. It is also constructing a nascent network of bases around the world that could be used by its rapidly expanding navy, piggybacking on port facilities being built as part of its Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. The U.S. is trying to prevent the Chinese navy from gaining its first foothold on the Atlantic, pressuring Equatorial Guinea to spurn Beijing’s advances.

“The United States is going to have to get used again to operating in multiple theaters simultaneously—not just militarily, but in terms of psychology and foreign-policy making,” said Eliot Cohen, a military historian at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

As the administration tries to sort through the new challenges, the Pentagon has delayed the release of its national defense strategy intended to spell out plans to deter the U.S.’s great power rivals and its new review of what nuclear weapons to develop and the range of threats they should deter.

Already, debates are emerging among U.S. defense experts on whether the Pentagon should give equal weight to the twin challenges from Beijing and Moscow or focus more on the Pacific.

Beyond the military, the new confrontation with Moscow might also accelerate a further fracturing of economic globalization. China and the U.S. are trying to unravel supply chains for critical technologies. Should the West impose crippling sanctions on Russian banks and major companies, Moscow is likely to become more reliant on Beijing, which has issued a digital currency and is building a payments system separate from the West’s.

Energy is also likely to become an even greater focal point for national security, owing to Europe’s dependence on supplies of natural gas from Russia, which accounted for 29% of Europe’s natural-gas market last year.

“It is already ending the amnesia about the importance of energy security,” said Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of research firm IHS Markit. “It means a new emphasis on diversification of energy sources for Europe and a new look at U.S. domestic and international energy policies.”

Advocates of using energy as a geopolitical tool say Washington should promote investment in U.S. oil and natural gas and approve new LNG export terminals and pipelines in the U.S.

In Europe, the crisis has already rocked NATO, with its secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, saying the alliance needs to reconfigure itself to deal with a “new normal in European security.”

At a security conference in Munich over the weekend, Vice President Kamala Harris and other leaders cited the unity that the U.S. and its European partners have displayed in the face of Russia’s actions.

In the short run, NATO officials say, that may mean sending new battle groups to southeastern Europe and beefing up allied forces in Poland and the Baltic States on NATO’s eastern flank. The 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act precludes the alliance from permanently stationing additional substantial combat forces on the territory of its new Eastern and Central European members, but could now be repealed.

A recent poll by the European Council on Foreign Relations noted most Europeans see the Ukraine crisis as a broader threat to Europe. Some current and former officials, however, worry that the alliance’s solidarity could fray in the years ahead as it debates the need for greater military spending and wrestles whether its military ties with Georgia might stir new confrontations with Moscow.

In June, NATO is planning to adopt its new “strategic concept” at a summit meeting in Madrid, which will outline the broad principles of how the alliance plans to deal with security challenges in the decade ahead. It will come as a report by the Alphen Group by former officials and other experts urges that European members of the alliance and Canada provide for 50% of NATO’s minimum military requirements by 2030 so the U.S. can focus more on deterring China.

“Everybody’s unified right now and outraged about what the Russians are doing,” said Alexander Vershbow, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO who also served as the alliance’s deputy secretary-general from 2012 to 2016. “But when we get down to making longer-term commitments to strengthen NATO’s defense posture and potentially revisit nuclear issues, it could become very divisive.”

 

Updated: 2-24-2022

Russian Airstrikes Hit Dozens of Ukrainian Cities

Ukraine Is The Latest Country To Legalize Bitcoin, As The Cryptocurrency Slowly Goes Global Ukraine Is The Latest Country To Legalize Bitcoin, As The Cryptocurrency Slowly Goes Global

NATO chief calls Putin’s attack a ‘brutal act of war’.

KYIV, Ukraine—Russian armored columns pushed into Ukraine and airstrikes hit the country’s capital and dozens of other cities early Thursday after President Vladimir Putin ordered an offensive that he said was aimed at toppling the government in Kyiv and demilitarizing the country.

Ukrainian officials said Russia had attacked on a wide front along the country’s frontiers from Belarus to the north, Russia to the east and Russian-controlled Crimea in the south. Video posted by Ukrainian authorities showed tanks and armored personnel vehicles streaming through a border checkpoint.

Russian tanks were deployed on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, which is about 20 miles from the Russian border, witnesses said. Another offensive thrust was aimed at Kherson, a city on the Black Sea north of Crimea, Ukrainian officials said, adding that border guards and national-guard units had repelled an attempt by Russian armored units to cross from Belarus on the western side of the Dnipro River to the north of Kyiv.

Ukrainian officials also said military facilities and other infrastructure had been hit near the border with Poland, a NATO member. The objects struck included a television tower in the city of Lutsk, some 50 miles from the frontier, Lutsk airport and a nearby military army base.

On Thursday afternoon, local time, Ukrainian officials said Russian helicopter-borne troops were trying to seize an airport on the outskirts of Kyiv. Mykhailo Podolyak, a presidential adviser, said there had been intense fighting at the site and asked journalists to leave the presidential administration building in central Kyiv. He said Russian forces could attempt to enter the area to remove the country’s leadership.

In a televised speech on Thursday, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, characterized Russia’s attack as “villainous” and said: “From today our states are on different sides of world history. The Russian state is on the path of evil.”

The Ukrainian leader, wearing a suit and speaking from behind a lectern, called on citizens with military experience to join the fight against invading forces and urged others to donate blood. “We are defending our freedom,” he said. “Be ready to support your state on the squares of your cities.”

Ukrainian forces were also battling Russians in the Chernihiv region north of Kyiv, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said. “It won’t be easy, but we’ll stop them,” he told reporters in Kyiv.

President Biden called Mr. Putin’s move an unprovoked, unjustified attack and pledged further action against Russia. “President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” he said in a statement.

Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, said the U.K. is preparing further sanctions against Russia in cooperation with other Western countries that he said would hobble the Russian economy.

“We must also collectively cease the dependence on Russian oil and gas that for too long has given Putin his grip on Western politics,” Mr. Johnson said.

The European Union announced sanctions hitting Russia’s financial sector, freezing assets and banning the export of technology to the country. The president of the bloc’s executive arm, Ursula von der Leyen, said the sanctions would hit “strategic sectors of the Russian economy” and “weaken Russia’s base and its capacity to modernize.”

The attack was Mr. Putin’s most aggressive action yet as he seeks to redress what he views as Russian losses since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War and the expansion of NATO and the European Union toward Russia’s borders.

Moscow’s moves presented the U.S. and its allies with a test of their unity over how to respond to Mr. Putin’s challenge to the global balance of power. The U.S. has promised harsh economic sanctions, but Mr. Putin has leverage, too: Russia is a major supplier of energy to Europe.

Just before airstrikes began against Ukraine, Russian television aired a speech by Mr. Putin in which he said, “Circumstances require us to take decisive and immediate action” to remove Ukraine’s leaders, whom he accused of “committing numerous bloody crimes.”

“I believe in your support, in that invincible strength that our love for the fatherland gives us,” he said in the address, which was replayed on state television as Russians woke up.

The Russian leader railed against the eastward expansion of NATO in the decades since the 1991 collapse, saying Moscow had been faced with “deceit and attempts at pressure and blackmail.” And he issued a pointed warning against any attempt to stop Russia’s move into Ukraine, saying Russia was “one of the most powerful nuclear powers in the world.”

Mr. Putin justified his actions by saying he was answering appeals for help from leaders of two Russian-controlled breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, which he recognized as independent this week. He said he didn’t intend to occupy Ukraine.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called Russia’s attack on Ukraine a “brutal act of war” and said he would convene a summit of leaders Friday following an activation of the alliance’s defense plans.

In Kyiv, the acrid smell of burning documents wafting from the windows of government buildings hung in the air. Restaurants, coffee shops and other businesses were closed. Reservists and soldiers with overnight bags were seen heading to their units.

On the city’s main Khreshchatyk avenue, veterans of the war against Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine, which has been waged since 2014, set up tents to sign up volunteers to fight. “There is a Russian threat,” said one of the veterans. “Our main task is to prevent panic, to prevent the destabilization of the situation in our city.”

People lined up at gas stations and at ATMs as many locals sought to leave Kyiv for the relative safety of the western city of Lviv near the Polish border. Supermarkets were open and customers packed carts with items ranging from bottled water to cat food and cigarettes.

“Ukrainians are strong people. Many fled. But we will stay here in Kyiv and do what we must,” a man said. “If we have to we will fire at them from every window of my home.”

Outside government buildings, security forces stood guard in body armor and helmets on guard against saboteurs. Police urged citizens to avoid wearing military-looking garb and to report people with red markings on their clothes.

Ukraine’s central bank, meanwhile, limited cash withdrawals to 100,000 Ukrainian hryvnia a day, equivalent to about $3,340. It also fixed the official exchange rate.

As Mr. Putin heralded the invasion, the United Nations Security Council met to discuss the crisis, with diplomats agreeing to vote on a resolution against Russia on Thursday, but Moscow was unlikely to face any consequences because it holds a veto as a permanent member of the council.

The calls for a U.N. resolution came at an emergency late-night council meeting that started with calls for restraint and peace—but shifted after Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., Vasily Nebenzya, read from Mr. Putin’s statement about the commencement of military operations in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.N., Sergiy Kyslytsya, called on Mr. Nebenzya to assure the council there wouldn’t be a widespread war across Ukraine.

“The Russian Federation ought to relinquish responsibilities of the president of the Security Council, pass these responsibilities on to a legitimate member,” Mr. Kyslytsya said. “There is no purgatory for war criminals—they go straight to hell, ambassador.”

Hours earlier, Mr. Zelensky, the Ukrainian leader, made a Russian-language appeal to Russian citizens, saying his nation posed no threat to Russia and that responsibility for unleashing a conflict that could cause tens of thousands of deaths would lay squarely with Mr. Putin.

Mr. Zelensky, who is of Jewish origin, ridiculed Russian propaganda assertions that Ukraine was somehow beholden to neo-Nazis, pointing out that eight million Ukrainians died during World War II and that his own grandfather was a decorated Soviet officer at the time.

“They say that we are Nazis. But how can a people who sacrificed more than eight million people for the victory over Nazism be Nazi? How can I be a Nazi?” he said. “Tell that to my grandfather who spent the whole war in the Soviet army and died as a colonel in a free Ukraine.”

In Odessa on Thursday, Alexander Vernik, a 36-year-old entrepreneur with fashion-export and construction businesses, said he heard an explosion near the train station. “Of course people are panicked,” he said.

Yevhen Rachkovsky, 25, an Odessa filmmaker, said he had packed a go bag with documents, money and medicine when his sister called to warn him about news of impending Russian strikes. “We’ve been living under the pressure that something’s coming,” he said. “We understood that it’s happening. I’m kind of afraid, afraid for my family.”

Ukrainian lawmakers passed emergency legislation on Wednesday to allow Kyiv to prepare for a Russian attack, with Mr. Zelensky’s political rivals putting their grievances aside and closing ranks in the name of defending Ukraine’s independence.

“Ukraine above all. As long as the risk of invasion remains, we are taking a moratorium on anything that undermines national unity,” former President Petro Poroshenko, Mr. Zelensky’s main rival, said in an interview. “The Ukrainian people are showing unity, the Ukrainian society is showing unity, Ukraine’s responsible statesmen are demonstrating unity.”

Mr. Zelensky had held off on mobilizing troops and other overt preparations for weeks, fearing that a panic would torpedo Ukraine’s already-battered economy. He changed his approach after Mr. Putin recognized the independence of the two Russian-backed statelets in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region and made a grievance-laden speech that questioned Ukraine’s right to exist as a sovereign nation.

China responded to the Russian attack on Ukraine by calling on all parties to exercise restraint and prevent the situation from getting out of control.

“We still hope that parties concerned will not shut the door to peace and engage instead in dialogue and consultation and prevent the situation from further escalation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Thursday during a regular press briefing in Beijing.

In Washington, U.S. lawmakers from both parties quickly called for increasing sanctions and boosting NATO defenses in response to Russia’s military action in Ukraine.

Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Mr. Putin had brought decades of general peace to an end with his illegal invasion. Mr. Warner said it was time to increase “the pain level” of sanctions and bolster NATO allies’ defenses.

“While there is still an opportunity for Russia to reverse course, we can no longer hold out hope that this standoff will be resolved peacefully,” Mr. Warner said. “Therefore, we must all, on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Atlantic, work together to demonstrate to Putin that this aggression will not be allowed to go unpunished.”

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said sanctions were needed months ago to ward off an invasion, but now, “we must implement strong, primary and secondary sanctions immediately.”

In neighboring Belarus, a close Russian ally where Moscow has also massed troops on Ukraine’s northern flank, the country’s authoritarian leader, Alexander Lukashenko, said negotiations were still possible to defuse the crisis.

“We are Slavs, three Slavic peoples,” Mr. Lukashenko told a meeting of security officials. “Let’s sit down and decide our fate for the future, forever.”

Russia, Ukraine, China, Oil, And Bitcoin

Russia invaded Ukraine last night. This conflict carries complexity across geopolitics, national security, and financial markets. It would be impossible for any one person to unpack the nuanced situation, and the subsequent ramifications, in great detail with only a few thousand words.

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Rather than regurgitate the sequence of events that have unfolded over the last 24 hours, I want to turn our attention to a few topics that I am thinking about this morning.

First, war is an ugly thing. Violent conflict leads to loss of human life and incredible economic hardship for millions of people. Those who are affected most tend to be the average citizen who has no appetite for war, nor was a participant in any events leading up to the conflict.

It should go without saying, but I hope that every single Russian and Ukrainian citizen is safe. My family and I are incredibly fortunate to live in the United States and have a daily life that doesn’t require us to worry about other nation states firing missiles at us or invading our city.

Second, it feels like there is a significant shift in geopolitical order that is playing out before our eyes. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is essentially an attempt by Vladimir Putin to call the United States and NATO’s bluff. He doesn’t believe they have the political will to impose painful enough sanctions, while also understanding that there is very little appetite for war among the citizens of member nations.

Simultaneously, China is ratcheting up their provocations of Taiwan, including 9 Chinese Air Force planes entering Taiwan’s airspace this morning and a warship violating Taiwan’s defense zone.

Both Russia and China understand that the long-standing American protectionism has weakened in the various regions and they are making a play to gain more global power, influence, and resources. I am not an expert on geopolitics, but it is hard to ignore the importance of these events, specifically through the lens of the confidence game on a global stage.

Third, Russia is the third largest oil producer globally. They are responsible for approximately 12% of the global production. Brent oil prices in the United States, and globally, have been quite high in recent months, so the current US administration has been asking for more oil to be supplied to the market in an attempt to curtail price increases.

Both Russia and Saudi Arabia have said they will not increase production, so that leaves the US in an awkward position. To further complicate the situation, brent oil prices spiked significantly on the news of Russian invasion and now is trading well over $100 per barrel.

In some weird way, the increased price of oil combined with the continued purchasing of Russian oil by the international community, means that Russia is actually profiting handsomely from the invasion.

Unfortunately, the United States and our allies can’t stop purchasing the oil for any material amount of time because we have made prior decisions that make us dependent on non-US oil producers. I won’t play Monday morning quarterback on those prior decisions, but the importance of energy independence is fairly obvious right now.

Fourth, Russia’s actions will likely lead to a flurry of financial sanctions from the United States and our allies. The most significant action would be the removal of Russia from the SWIFT system. There could also be sanctions against Vladimir Putin personally, along with a cadre of other high-ranking Russian leaders.

Regardless of the exact sanctions, it would be naive of the international community to think that Russia hasn’t war-gamed this situation in preparation.

Many people don’t know this but Russia has one of the largest foreign currency and gold reserves in the world. They were the fourth largest behind China, Japan, and Switzerland at the end of 2020. This $600+ billion in foreign currencies and gold will be a tool in their toolbox once sanctions are implemented.

Now I don’t know exactly what Russia has planned, but it is very clear that they are willing to take the risk of catastrophic sanctions. They either don’t believe the US and NATO will levy crippling sanctions or they have a plan on how to get around them.

This brings me to my final point. The United States has been the producer and distributor of the global reserve currency for decades. One of the benefits of that position is that we can impose financial sanctions on those that we disagree with or those that are violating our view of good and evil.

The nuance to financial sanctions though is that they only work if the intended target is using the currency that you produce and distribute. Given that Russia has an incredible amount of foreign currencies and gold, these sanctions may not be as effective as they would have previously been.

This brings me to the most important point — the United States has to start considering what to do in a world where a large portion of the world doesn’t use the US dollar as their reserve currency.

The hypothetical situation would see Russia and China, who have long publicly stated their intention to get off the US dollar system, decide that the costs to using the current global reserve currency has become too high. They are unlikely to use rubles or renminbis as the new reserve currency.

There isn’t enough global buy-in, along with a general challenge of convincing the world that these new nation states won’t repeat the mistakes of the past nation states.

This game theory leads us to bitcoin. The next best option to being the producer and distributor of the global reserve currency is to be the most advanced user and holder of a global reserve currency that no single country controls. That incentive leads these superpowers to realize that bitcoin will be essential for decades to come.

The countries that have a large ownership stake, along with conducting mining and other pro-bitcoin activities within their country, will have a significant advantage.

The United States shouldn’t give up on the US dollar. In fact, we should continue to optimize for the production and distribution of the global reserve currency. There is safety and stability when you occupy that position. But we must also begin to hedge ourselves.

It is time for insurance. Even if our leadership believes there is an incredibly small percentage chance that the US dollar may not be the global reserve currency in 50 years, we should position ourselves to be a leader in that small possibility.

The United States should put bitcoin in the central bank reserves. We should immediately incentivize as many bitcoin miners globally to move to the US. We should remove the capital gains tax on bitcoin spending and treat it like a traditional currency.

And the United States should begin educating its population on the decentralized, digital currency. These steps will take years to successfully complete, but it is important that we begin now.

There are many politicians in both Congress and the Senate who are working on these initiatives. We need many more. The current geopolitical situation will be written about in history books.

It is imperative that we remain compassionate to those who are adversely affected by war, we remain steadfast in our disagreement with the aggressors, and we plan for various future scenarios, regardless of how unlikely we believe they are.

Hope everyone has a great day in light of the circumstances. Give your loved ones an extra hug when you see them. Most of us reading this are so fortunate.

U.S. Refiners Buy Most Russian Pacific Crude In Eight Months

Shipments of crude from Russia’s Pacific coast terminals to refineries in the the U.S. have risen in February to their highest level since June, despite the tensions that culminated with President Vladimir Putin sending troops into Ukraine.

Four crude cargoes are heading for refineries in Washington state and Hawaii from Russian Pacific terminals, according to ship tracking data monitored by Bloomberg. That’s equivalent to 101,000 barrels a day, the highest daily average in eight months.

While the U.S. and other Western nations are imposing sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, the country is a major exporters of energy and raw materials the world needs at a time when shortages are stoking inflation.

Three cargoes of Sokol crude were loaded by ship-to-ship transfer off the South Korean port of Yeosu. One is already anchored off Anacortes, Washington, and the other two are headed for Hawaii, where they are due to arrive in the first week of March.

Sokol is pumped from fields off Sakhalin Island by Exxon Neftegas Ltd, which holds a 30% stake in the Sakhalin-1 project alongside partners from Russia, India and Japan. Cargoes are moved from the export terminal at De-Kastri by a fleet of shuttle tankers and it’s not unusual for them to be transferred to other ships at Yeosu for onward delivery.

One shipment of ESPO crude, piped to the coast from East Siberia, was loaded at Russia’s Kozmino terminal. It’s due to arrive in Anacortes on March 14.

Russian barrels will keep coming to the U.S. aboard almost two dozen vessels for delivery in the next month, according to data from Vortexa.

European Energy Firms Rush To Buy Russian Gas After Attack

* Russian Gas Imports Are Now Cheaper Than Spot Prices In Europe
* Flows Via Ukraine Jumped 38% On Thursday, May Rise Friday

Europe’s top energy companies are rushing to buy more Russian gas even after President Vladimir Putin’s forces attacked Ukraine.

Utilities are ordering more of the fuel under long-term contracts with Gazprom PJSC after prices rallied more than 60% on Thursday, when Russia began a full-scale invasion. That’s because the deals are priced in such a way that Russia imports are now cheaper than spot gas traded at European hubs.

Russia launched a barrage of missile attacks on Ukraine early Thursday, triggering the worst security crisis Europe has witnessed in decades. Ukraine said Russian forces have entered the Kyiv region near the border with Belarus, and separatists have begun assaults in the eastern part of the country. Energy prices rallied, with European natural gas surging by a record 62%.

Current gas prices are “well above the likely sales price for many Gazprom import contracts and so driving purchases higher,” said Stefan Ulrich, a gas analyst with BloombergNEF. “There may also be a strategic component as buyers seek to buy now given a potential for disruption in flows or further price increases.”

Russian gas exports through Ukraine jumped almost 38% on Thursday and may increase even further, according to data from Ukraine’s grid operator. Traders booked an additional 6.5 million cubic meters a day of pipeline space to flow gas into Europe through the Velke Kapusany entry point on the border between Ukraine and Slovakia, a sign shipments will increase again on Friday.

Uniper SE, Eni Spa, Engie SA and Gazprom declined to comment on Russian gas orders. RWE AG said it wouldn’t speculate on future developments in the market.

Europe is facing an energy crunch as demand rebounded just as Gazprom curbed supplies, limiting sales in the spot market. The Russian gas giant also failed to fill its storage sites in Europe before the winter, leaving the continent grappling with the lowest stockpiles in at least a decade for most of the heating season.

Exports from Russia dropped even further this year, a move Gazprom said was due to lower demand from European clients. While Russian domestic demand was strong, production climbed to a three-year high. That allowed Russia to withdraw gas from storages at a much slower rate than energy-starved Europe.

Gazprom discloses inventory levels only sporadically, but on Dec. 29, Chief Executive Officer Alexey Miller said the nation had withdrawn about 12 billion cubic meters of gas, about half amount tapped in Europe. Russian storages were 83% filled back then, about 9% higher than the five-year average, according to estimates from Tom Marzec-Manser, an analyst for European gas and LNG at ICIS.

The increase in Russian gas purchases comes at an awkward time for Europe. The EU, the U.K. and the U.S. have all condemned Russia’s actions, but sanctions so far have largely steered clear of energy. While President Joe Biden said the U.S. will impose sanctions on Russia that will hamper its ability to do business in foreign currencies as, the SWIFT international payment system has so far been spared.

“I think gas will continue to flow to Europe via all export corridors, including the Ukrainian one” as long as no pipelines get damaged, said Katja Yafimava, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

Cryptocurrency Is a Potential New Tool For Billionaires To Avoid Sanctions

Individuals and other entities targeted in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may circumvent penalties if they choose to use crypto.

Cryptocurrencies may help Russia and its billionaires blunt the impact of western sanctions.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Thursday he has authorized “strong sanctions” in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. These aim to limit its ability to do business in dollars and other major international currencies, and include penalties on five Russian banks that represent an estimated $1 trillion in assets. A broad swath of Russian elites and their family members will also be targeted. That’s all in addition to penalties that were imposed earlier this week.

But those sanctions might carry less weight in a country that is taking steps to legalize cryptocurrencies and where the digital assets are already widely owned. Typically, nations employ physical workarounds to avoid sanctions, such as Venezuela and North Korea’s use of ship-to-ship transfers of fuel, but digital assets like crypto and decentralized exchanges could become the most effective way to circumvent penalties.

“Neither dictators nor human rights activists will encounter any censor on the Bitcoin network,” said Matthew Sigel, head of digital assets research at investment manager VanEck.

Sanctions imposed on companies and individuals by the U.S. and its allies could essentially close them out of the West. Billionaires, some of whom have already been targeted directly, potentially stand to circumvent those penalties if they choose to use crypto, which uses blockchain technology to keep transactions anonymous. The digital currencies might help them buy goods and services and invest in assets outside of Russia — all while avoiding banks or institutions that adhere to sanctions and could trace their transactions.

“If two people or organizations want to do business with each other and are not able to do so through the banks, they can do it with Bitcoin,” said Mati Greenspan, founder and chief executive officer of financial advisory firm Quantum Economics. “If a wealthy individual is concerned that their accounts may be frozen due to sanctions, they can simply hold their wealth in Bitcoin in order to be protected from such actions.”

Sanctions Workaround

Unlike fiat currencies, which need to move through third-party institutions that have the ability to track, freeze or block them, cryptocurrencies can potentially be sent from one person directly to another regardless of any government sanctions or other restrictions.

Crypto holders can also set up a web of wallets with different addresses across several exchanges, making it extremely difficult to track any activity and even harder to tie transactions back to a particular individual. Additionally, they can choose cryptocurrency exchanges that are not based in jurisdictions that are imposing sanctions and therefore don’t necessarily have to adhere to regulations.

But any assets held in crypto wouldn’t be easily converted into fiat currencies, experts say, making any money that trades hands less disposable. And in order to circumvent banks or even centralized exchanges that adhere to sanctions, individuals would have to convince any services they are doing business with to accept digital payment, which could be difficult.

The wealthy Russians who will be targeted with sanctions are “people that personally gained from the Kremlin’s policies and they should share in the pain,” Biden said on Thursday. “We will keep up this drumbeat of those designations against corrupt billionaires in the days ahead.”

None of the billionaires sanctioned prior to Thursday has so far publicly revealed whether they’re crypto holders.

To be sure, there are still ways for governments to impose regulations on cryptocurrency holdings that exist on centralized exchanges, said David Tawil, president of crypto investment firm ProChain Capital. He referred to the recent crackdown by the Canadian government on crypto accounts owned by truckers who were receiving funds to support their blockades of U.S.-Canada border crossings and a weeks-long protest in the capital city of Ottawa.

Assuming that money laundering is easier via cryptocurrencies is a misconception, said Brett Harrison, president of crypto exchange FTX US. He explains that exchanges have access to certain technology that allows for tracking and screening of wallets that come from sanctioned countries.

It would also be difficult for individuals to convert cryptocurrencies to fiat currencies through centralized exchanges without getting caught — essentially making it harder for them to spend.

“The thing that can be prevented is the funds forever leaving an exchange where proper sanctions are properly upheld,” said Harrison. “As soon as it moves anywhere, everyone can see it because it’s on a public blockchain, but even if they could move it, no exchange will let them convert this to a currency and the second they do they are caught.”

FTX frequently gets contacted by law enforcement agencies across several states and countries with subpoenas to seize funds from certain addresses, he said. The extent to which cryptocurrency can be traceable is visible from the recent arrest of two individuals related to the 2016 Bitfinex hack. The U.S. government was able to track the activity of certain wallets and as a result freeze the accounts as soon as they were converted into fiat currencies.

Crypto’s Status

The legal status of cryptocurrencies in Russia is in flux, with the government pushing to permit them in order to attract foreign investment and bring domestic trading out of the shadows, while the central bank says they bear the hallmarks of a pyramid scheme and should be banned. Putin last month ordered them to reach a quick compromise, but top government officials have so far failed to agree on how to regulate crypto.

But millions of Russians are already immersed in this digital world — they own more than 2 trillion rubles ($22.9 billion) worth of cryptocurrencies, according to a recent government paper.

More than 17 million Russians, or about 12% of the total population, are cryptocurrency owners, according to data from Singapore-based payment gateway TripleA. And with more sanctions pending, it could be in Russia’s interest to let rich individuals deal in crypto regardless of its legal status.

“To have conflicting thoughts out there is kind of okay and they’ll get to the issue when they can get to the issue,” said ProChain’s Tawil, explaining that even the U.S. has struggled to define the legal framework and regulations surrounding cryptocurrencies. “I would think that the majority of crypto activity in Russia is frankly in rhythm with the government.”

Other countries around the former Soviet Union are also paying more attention to crypto. Last week, the Ukrainian parliament backed a bill to legalize cryptocurrencies, while Kazakhstan is pushing to better regulate and tax its booming crypto-mining industry.

U.S. equities initially tumbled Thursday after Russia invaded Ukraine, with the S&P 500 Index losing as much as 2.6% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 extending its drop to 20% from its last record high in November. Stocks have since pared their losses, with the Nasdaq 100 turning positive. Bitcoin slumped as much as 8.5% to $34,337, bringing its decline to nearly 50% since its all-time high set in November.

Twitter Users Ask Ukrainian Armed Forces To Start Accepting Crypto Donations

Ukraine Is The Latest Country To Legalize Bitcoin, As The Cryptocurrency Slowly Goes Global

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence claims it has received numerous requests from foreigners to donate to its Armed Forces, but it cannot accept crypto proceeds.

On Thursday, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on multiple fronts, prompting a swift response from the Ukrainian government as it mobilized troops, armed civilians and called upon world leaders to come to its aid.

The same day, the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine began accepting donations for its armed forces by setting up a designated bank account for foreign currency wire transfers. The Ukrainian army cited “numerous requests from individuals and legal entities who are not residents of Ukraine and wish to make donations.” It appears one particular part of the memo caught the attention of social media users:

“National Legislation Does Not Allow The Ministry Of Defence Of Ukraine To Use Other Payment Systems (‘Webmoney,’ ‘Bitcoin,’ ‘PayPal,’ etc.)”

Crypto enthusiasts quickly took to the Ukrainian government’s Twitter account, where the link was posted, to request the acceptance of digital currency donations. For example, user TechLeakers wrote: “Get a Bitcoin cryptocurrency address. So it will be accepted globally.”

However, some also voiced their concern over the potential of the Ukrainian Armed Forces accepting crypto donations, with user “MMusikwolf ” writing:

“Do not donate crypto. The value fluctuates too much for it to be useful in this sense. [Fiat] Money has the highest liquidity of any asset and thus can be used fastest.”

But others, such as BiggieWhale, quickly pointed out that digital stablecoin currencies such as USDT are pegged to the United States dollar and therefore, theoretically, do not suffer the same degree of price volatility. At least one Ukrainian nongovernmental organization, Come Back Alive, currently accepts BTC donations, with the proceeds going to the Ukrainian Army.

Come Back Alive, which has raised more than $6 million in support of the Ukrainian army. The organization accepts bank transfers and card payments, as well as bitcoin.

Cryptocurrency Donations To Groups Backing Ukraine Are Soaring As War With Russia unfolds, Says Crypto Analytics Firm (2-8-2022)

Cryptocurrency donations to groups supporting Ukraine have jumped as Russia amasses thousands of troops on its border, with crypto analytics firm Elliptic saying in a report that funding has reached several hundred thousand dollars.

Bitcoin has become a key alternative funding method for international donors working to bypass financial institutions that are blocking payments aimed at aiding Ukraine, said Elliptic on Tuesday. The company runs crypto-risk assessments such as wallet screenings, transaction monitoring, and investigations and counts crypto firms, financial institutions, and regulators as customers.

Hundreds of crypto-based donations have gone to volunteer groups and non-government organizations, or NGOs, that have close links to the Ukrainian government. Such funding shot up by more than 900% in 2021. Volunteer groups are helping the Ukrainian military by providing soldiers and weapons and other items following decades of corruption and neglect, the report said.

Several cryptocurrency wallets used by volunteer groups and NGOs have collectively received just over $570,000 in donations, much of it coming in over the past year, said Elliptic, which identified the wallets.

One of the largest organizations supporting the Ukrainian army called Come Back Alive received nearly $200,000 in bitcoin donations in the second half of 2021, marking a recent jump in funding. The organization, which provides military equipment and training services, started accepting cryptoassets in 2018.

Elliptic also highlighted the Ukrainian Cyber Alliance, a collective that’s engaged in cyberattacks against Russian targets since 2016. It said unlike other groups that rely heavily on bank wires, the Ukrainian Cyber Alliance‘s public fundraising relies solely on cryptoasset donations. The alliance has drawn in about $100,000 in bitcoin, litecoin, ether, and stablecoins over the past year.

“By embracing cryptoasset fundraising, Ukrainian volunteer groups are actually emulating techniques previously employed by Russia since the very start of the Russo-Ukrainian War,” said Elliptic. It said a series of online campaigns raised money for Pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine, with money channeled through Russian and overseas banks. The campaigns also accepted crypto donations.

Russia has been amassing troops at Ukraine’s border for months and has deployed 130,000 troops at the border. Russia could take military action against Ukraine “any day now” or in a couple of weeks, unless it opts for a diplomatic resolution with Ukraine, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Fox News Sunday this week.

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a Monday press conference said Ukraine must be made to implement elements of the Minsk Protocol, a cease-fire agreement in 2014 to end fighting between Ukraine and Russia-backed separatists in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

Direct donations to the Ministry of Defense must be made through bank transfers, as it is legally not allowed to receive funds through other payment systems. The currencies accepted are US dollars, euros, pounds, Swiss francs, Canadian dollars, Polish zloty, Czech crowns, Russian rubles, and Australian dollars. The bank coordinates are the following:

Beneficiary Customer Name The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, 6, Povitroflotskiy Pr., Kyiv, Ukraine, 03168
IBAN UA963223130000025307010029738
Bank Name JOINT STOCK COMPANY «THE STATE EXPORT-IMPORT BANK OF UKRAINE»
Bank Address 127, Antonovycha Str., Kyiv, Ukraine, 03150
Bank SWIFT Number EXBSUAUX
Setting of payment (Obligatory Remittance Information) Donation For The Logistic And Medical Support Of The Armed Forces Of Ukraine
(UA458201720313281002302018611)

Due to Russia’s military advance, global assets and foreign exchange prices, including the value of Bitcoin (BTC) and the Ukrainian hryvnia, are currently experiencing steep selloffs.

FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried commented on the issue of currency destabilization in Eastern Europe due to the invasion. In a lengthy Twitter thread, Bankman-Fried wrote: “If you were in Ukraine right now, where would you trust your money?” He also said: “And more importantly, there might be war. That’s really bad for the world. Fuck all this price stuff. Go outside and do something nice for someone.”

According to the Ukrainian government, 40 people were killed in the first hours of the Russian invasion, with several dozens wounded. In addition to targeting Ukrainian military installations, there have been reports of Russian missiles hitting critical infrastructure such as airports and civilian establishments.

Tether’s USDT Stablecoin Well Over $1 On Ukrainian Crypto Exchange

Tether, which is supposed to represent a $1 value as a dollar-linked stablecoin, is trading above its peg on the Ukrainian exchange amid tensions.

Ukrainians were paying a steep premium over the U.S. dollar for Tether’s USDT stablecoin after Russia invaded the Eastern European country Thursday.

The price of USDT on the popular Ukrainian cryptocurrency exchange Kuna jumped Thursday by almost 5% in the past 24 hours to 32 Ukrainian hryvnia, the country’s national currency. The price works out to $1.10 per USDT, which is supposed to be worth $1.

As tensions between Russia and Ukraine tighten, some citizens are looking for a safe haven to keep their assets. With most traditional cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin or ether, very volatile, Ukrainians are choosing to put their money into stablecoins, specifically tether.

Across crypto markets more broadly, USDT was still holding fast to its $1 peg. As of press time, USDT was changing hands at 99.9727 cents, based on CoinDesk pricing that blends data feeds from many of the world’s largest exchanges.

But there is a limited supply in Ukraine of USDT, the biggest stablecoin by market capitalization at about $80 billion. And that’s becoming a problem, Kuna founder Michael Chobanian told CoinDesk TV in an interview on Wednesday.

“The majority of people have nothing else to choose apart from crypto,” he said. “We’re talking about millions of dollars of cash that wants to go into crypto … but we can’t find people who are willing to do the opposite, sell it.”

Kuna says it has around 40,000 active accounts, 90% of them belonging to Ukrainian residents.

Crypto Billionaire, Pussy Riot Join Effort To Give Ukrainians Money

Ukraine Is The Latest Country To Legalize Bitcoin, As The Cryptocurrency Slowly Goes Global

The Ukraine central bank and other organizations are seeking donations via crowdfunding to help support the country in the wake of Russia’s invasion.

As protests erupt around the world in support of Ukraine, crowdfunding efforts are underway to raise money for its armed forces and civilians as the country faces down Russia’s far bigger military.

From Ukraine’s central bank to a crypto-linked organization launched by Russian punk band Pussy Riot, several groups are soliciting donations to help support the embattled country. Billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried says his company is giving away money to Ukrainians.

According to blockchain analytics firm Elliptic, about $4 million in cryptocurrencies had been donated to non-governmental organizations and volunteer groups in Ukraine as of Friday. The donations show how an increasingly online world is providing more options for donors who previously would have been limited to giving via large charities such as the Red Cross.

The efforts are ongoing as Russian troops close in on the capital city of Kyiv, with Ukraine accusing its attacker of targeting civilians. Russia says it’s only aiming at military assets.

For all the donations, the amounts raised so far are minuscule compared to Ukraine’s military budget, which was about $3.9 billion in 2021. Lawmakers agreed to increase defense spending by about $870 million earlier this week. Russia spends more than 10 times as much as Ukraine on defense.

Crowdfunding Options

As explosions and air-raid sirens bombarded Ukraine’s capital overnight, more crowdfunding efforts swelled across the globe.

These ranged from traditional fundraising campaigns on Facebook to crowdfunding via decentralized autonomous organizations, or DAOs — member-owned organizations that use blockchain technology to raise money via cryptocurrencies.

Pussy Riot, known for its guerilla-style protest performances and criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin, announced the launch of UkraineDAO to raise funds for civilian organizations including Kyiv non-profit Come Back Alive and Proliska, a humanitarian organization helping civilians in the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

“Crypto is borderless, permitless and it’s so much easier and faster than fiat,” Pussy Riot founder Nadya Tolokonnikova said in a live conversation on Twitter spaces.

Meanwhile, Bankman-Fried, chief executive officer of crypto exchange FTX US, said on Twitter that his company gave $25 to each Ukrainian on the platform.

“One of the main promises that crypto hopes to bring to people is being able to access financial tools that might be difficult in many parts of the world to access otherwise,” FTX President Brett Harrison said in a livestreamed chat Friday, adding that the exchange’s Ukrainian user base is growing.

This followed National Bank of Ukraine’s creation of a special account on Thursday where people from around the world can send money in major currencies to Ukrainian soldiers.

Come Back Alive said it raised 20.5 million hryvnia ($691,000) as of Thursday to support the army, according to a Facebook post. The non-profit shared links to its Swift account, Patreon page and Bitcoin wallet to accept donations for its efforts. Army SOS is also accepting donations and equipping the military with new technology such as tablets, according to posts on its Facebook page.

“You helped the military more yesterday than you did in 2021,” Come Back Alive posted on Wednesday. The non-profit has about 109 Bitcoin in its wallet, or about $4.3 million.

Nonprofits and volunteer soldiers have been central to Ukraine’s fight against Russia dating back to the annexation of Crimea.

Come Back Alive, which started in 2014, has a charitable foundation that has previously helped equip Ukrainian forces with military vehicles, surveillance systems and more, according to its website. As of 2019, it had spent about $5 million on equipment.

Patreon Restrictions

Some financial institutions have begun implementing limits and restrictions on the fundraising efforts.

Commercial money-transfer platform Wise is currently limiting transfers to Ukraine to the equivalent of 2,500 in dollars, pounds and euros because it’s “more difficult” to operate right now, but will continue to offer its services “as long as we are able to do so,” the company said in a press release.

The Come Back Alive Foundation was accepting donations through Patreon, a site that allows creators to receive payments, but its page was suddenly removed from the platform Thursday afternoon. According to a Facebook post from the organization, its funding page was deleted without warning.

“Patreon does not allow any campaigns involved in violence or purchasing of military equipment, regardless of their cause,” a spokesperson from Patreon told Bloomberg, adding that it violates the company’s policy. The company said in a blog post that it will refund contributors.

Representatives for National Bank of Ukraine, Come Back Alive and Army SOS didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Russia To Seize Retail Deposits If Sanctions Go Too Far, Official Warns

Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, has denied its own supposedly false statement on being included in the U.S. sanctions list on Thursday.

In the event of harsh Western sanctions as Russian forces invade Ukraine, retail customers could risk losing their savings.

Russians’ savings could be confiscated in response to sanctions against the country, according to Nikolai Arefiev, a member of the country’s Communist Party and vice-chairman of the Duma’s committee on economic policy.

The Russian government can potentially seize about 60 trillion rubles ($750 billion) worth of people’s deposits should Western nations decide to block all of Russia’s foreign funds, Arefiev said in an interview with the local news agency News.ru on Monday.

“If all the foreign funds are blocked, the government will have no other choice but to seize all the deposits of the population, or 60 trillion rubles in order to solve the situation,” the official stated, noting that Russia stores over $640 billion of gold and foreign exchange reserves abroad.

He also mentioned that potential sanctions against Russia include a possible disconnection from SWIFT and foreign exchange prohibitions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin officially announced a special military operation in Ukraine, potentially pulling the trigger on a set of sanctions on Russia’s largest banks, including state-backed Sberbank and VTB.

According to local reports, Sberbank mistakenly made a statement on being included in the list of sanctions by the United States on Thursday night but subsequently removed the notice, claiming that the statement was false and was caused by a “website crash.”

At the time of writing, Sberbank’s website reads that Sberbank and all its systems are operating as normal, while clients and legal entities have access to their funds and services in full.

“We are ready for any development of the situation and have worked out scenarios to guarantee the protection of the funds, assets and interests of our clients, as well as to ensure the regular operation of all our functions,” the notice says.

On Thursday, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared that it would make sure to respond to potential Western sanctions, stating, “Make no mistake, we will respond strongly to these sanctions, not necessarily in a symmetrical manner, but the response will be well calibrated and will not fail to affect the United States.”

Balaji Srinivasan, A Crypto Investor And Former Chief Technology Officer Of Coinbase, Suggested That The Ministry Was Threatening A Cyberwar With The West:

From Russia’s foreign ministry.
Is this a threat of cyberwar?https://t.co/waxvbrE5E1 pic.twitter.com/AVnYoLLtqd

— Balaji Srinivasan (@balajis) February 24, 2022

The latest news comes as the Russian ruble plummets to an all-time low against the U.S. dollar, with indexes surging up to 115 rubles or more per U.S. dollar for those who want to buy dollars on the open market, up 35% from 74 rubles just a couple of weeks ago. According to local reports, Sberbank was offering its clients to buy dollars at 100 rubles on Thursday.

The latest events have triggered a massive impact on the Russian stock market and cryptocurrency markets, with Bitcoin (BTC) briefly dropping below $35,000 for the first time since June 2021, according to data from CoinGecko. The total market capitalization tumbled below $1.7 trillion for the first time since August last year.

According to Sam Bankman-Fried, CEO of FTX cryptocurrency exchange, the massive sell-off on crypto and stock markets is “to pay for war.”

Updated: 2-25-2022

Bitcoin Donations To The Ukrainian Military Are Soaring As Russia Invades

Bitcoin donations to the Ukrainian army are soaring after Moscow launched a large-scale offensive against Ukraine early Thursday.

New data from blockchain analytics firm Elliptic shows that over a 12-hour window Thursday, nearly $400,000 in bitcoin was donated to Come Back Alive, a Ukrainian nongovernmental organization providing support to the armed forces.

The fresh round of crypto donations capitalizes on a trend seen in recent weeks, in which donations totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars have flooded into Ukrainian NGOs and volunteer groups working to stave off a Russian offensive, according to Elliptic.

Activists have deployed the crypto for a variety of purposes, including equipping the Ukrainian army with military equipment, medical supplies, and drones, as well as funding the development of a facial recognition app designed to identify if someone is a Russian mercenary or spy.

“Cryptocurrency is increasingly being used to crowdfund war, with the tacit approval of governments,” said Tom Robinson, chief scientist of Elliptic, which sells blockchain analytics tools to banks and cryptocurrency platforms.
Borderless and censorship-proof

Volunteer groups have long augmented the work of Ukraine’s military by offering additional resources and manpower. When pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in 2014, for example, volunteers stepped up to support protesters.

Typically, these organizations receive funds from private donors via bank wires or payment apps. Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have become more popular, however, since they allow them to bypass financial institutions that might block payments to Ukraine.

Volunteer groups and NGOs have collectively raised over $1 million in cryptocurrency, according to Elliptic, though that number appears to be quickly moving higher as donations come in amid Russia’s newly launched offensive.

Come Back Alive, which has accepted cryptocurrency since 2018, provides the military with equipment, training services and medical supplies. Privately held Patreon suspended the nonprofit’s donation page on Thursday after the invasion began and people gave hundreds of thousands of dollars; the company returned the contributions to donors.

Another group, the Ukrainian Cyber Alliance, has received close to $100,000 in bitcoin, litecoin, ether and a mix of stablecoins over the last year. Since 2016, Alliance activists have engaged in cyberattacks against Russian targets, says Elliptic.

On the other side, pro-Russian separatists have been raising funds in bitcoin since the early days of the conflict.

London-based fintech data analyst Boaz Sobrado tells CNBC that some Russian officials mentioned they weren’t shutting off opposition bank accounts for “fear they’d push them into crypto fundraising, which is a lot harder to monitor.”

Sobrado said there is a long history of crypto fundraising for controversial causes, from WikiLeaks to Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, who has also been raising funds in bitcoin.

Ukraine has also taken steps to embrace cryptocurrencies at a national level.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the parliament recently reached common ground on a law that legalizes and regulates cryptocurrency. The measure goes a long way toward elevating crypto out of the legal gray area where it currently sits, though it doesn’t go as far as the law in El Salvador, which adopted bitcoin as legal tender in September.

On an official state visit to the U.S. in August 2021, Zelenskyy spoke of Ukraine’s budding “legal innovative market for virtual assets” as a selling point for investment, and Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov said the country was modernizing its payment market so that its national bank would be able to issue digital currency.

War with Russia, however, could render all those plans moot.

Within the first week of the Russia-Ukraine war, the Ukrainian government has reached out to the crypto community on Twitter for raising funds to support its civilians and troops. Ukraine has now started accepting Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH) and Tether (USDT) as donations.

Amid military threats through the country of Ukraine, the government of Ukraine sought help from numerous international organizations. However, considering time is of the essence, the official Twitter account of Ukraine extended its call for help to Crypto Twitter.

Additionally, the Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine Mykhailo Fedorov also shared three crypto wallet addresses urging the crypto community to donate and help Ukraine fight against the Russian troops. While the BTC and ETH addresses remain the same, Fedorov’s USDT wallet address is TRC20-based (different from the address shared by Ukraine’s official Twitter handle).

Prominent crypto entrepreneurs including Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin initially suspected that the accounts requesting crypto donations were hacked. However, American diplomat Tomicah Tillemann later confirmed its legitimacy from Ukrainian Ambassador Olexander Scherba.

Ukrainian civilian-turned refugees have reported the loss of access to their fiat savings and credit cards. The United Nations (UN) reported that over 150,000 people have been displaced from Ukraine as of Feb. 26.

While confusion prevailed about the intended use of the crypto donations, Buterin shared another decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) initiative that focuses solely on Ukrainian citizens.

UkraineDAO, led by Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova, launched with the release of a 1/1 nonfungible token (NFT) of the Ukrainian flag to raise funds for Ukrainian civilian organizations to help those suffering from the war initiated by Putin.

On Feb. 24, Cointelegraph reported that Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence received numerous requests from foreigners for crypto donations.

Although unconfirmed, it is now believed that proceedings to the addresses shared by the Ukrainian government will be used directly by the government while the DAO proceedings will be redirected towards the citizen welfare via an NGO.

Since February 24, prominent crypto entrepreneurs took proactive efforts to aid Ukrainians. FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried was one of the first to offer monetary support to FTX traders from Ukraine.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, the Ministry of Defense was asked by the crypto community to set up provisions to accept crypto donations — which was previously unavailable.

Local Ukrainian NFT Artists’ Works Sell Out

In an act of solidarity, crypto enthusiasts from all over the world are helping the people of Ukraine press through difficult times.

It appears that crypto enthusiasts worldwide are rallying in support of Ukrainians during the difficult times.

According to reports, Bitcoin (BTC) donations to Come Back Alive, a non-governmental organization helping Ukraine’s military efforts, received $3 million in BTC in a single donation on Friday.

Users also took to social media to ask the country’s Ministry of Defense to accept crypto donations, such as Tether (USDT). At the same time, the founder of Ukraine’s Kuna exchange created a crypto fund to assist charities in the country.

On Friday, the outpouring of support gained further traction. Nonfungible token (NFT) artist “pan_danil” began organizing a campaign to direct donations, launch NFT auctions and pledge a percentage of project sales to NFT artists in Ukraine. At the time of publication, a group of volunteers had formed to curate a community list of Ukrainian NFT artists and links to their artwork on NFT platforms such as Rarible, Foundation and OpenSea.

Meanwhile, other Ukrainian artists, such as “voplividchau,” have reported their NFT drops selling out due to community support. But despite the successful sale, she wrote:

It’s very scary in Kiev [Kyiv] now; it was scary at night, and what will happen next is so scary. I admire how brave people are here.

NFT platform Orica, which launched an NFT campaign to help build a school in Uganda last year and coordinated an NFT charity drop to help victims of human trafficking, voiced its support for Ukraine’s NFT artists on Twitter. It also appears the platform is directly onboarding Ukrainian NFT artists for upcoming exhibitions.

 

Apple Pay To Halt Support For Russian Banks Sanctioned On War In Ukraine

Russians cashed out over $1.3 billion from banks on the first day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the largest amount since the onset of COVID-19.

Several Russian banks that have been sanctioned over Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine will no longer support major payment services like Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Russia’s second-largest bank, VTB — as well as other banks like Sovcombank, Otkritie, Novikombank and Promsvyazbank — are on the list of companies sanctioned by the United States, the Bank of Russia confirmed on Friday.

Users of debit and credit cards issued by these banks will no longer be able to use Apple Pay and Google Pay, the central bank said in the announcement, adding that contact or contactless payment will still be available in full across Russia.

Customers will also no longer be able to pay with these cards for products and services sold online from countries supporting the sanctions, the statement notes.

Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, is also among the sanctioned banks, the Bank of Russia said in a separate announcement on Friday. The sanctions specifically target Sberbank’s correspondent accounts.

Apart from some Russian cards being blocked from Apple Pay and Google Pay, some sanctioned Russian banks are also facing issues with the Apple Store and Google Store due to their involvement with decisions over Ukraine’s Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.

Apple reportedly removed mobile applications by the sanctioned Promsvyazbank on Wednesday, with at least three apps being removed from the App Store. Google reportedly removed the bank’s main application from its store as well.

Russians have been increasingly withdrawing money from their bank accounts as some officials have warned about banks potentially seizing retail deposits in the event sanctions go too far. Users reportedly withdrew 111.3 billion rubles ($1.3 billion) from Russian banks on the first day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the biggest outflow since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago.

The significant bank outflows have apparently continued, as many customers online continued to report ATMs running dry and large queues to cash out on Friday.

While some on-chain data suggests that Ukrainians have been increasingly moving into crypto in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion, it can be difficult to get recent data on Russians’ crypto exposure as the country has no legal exchanges that track trading volumes. Major locally operating exchanges like Binance declined to comment on the matter to Cointelegraph.

According to data from crypto data provider Coin Dance, Russia’s crypto trading volumes on major peer-to-peer exchange LocalBitcoins have been falling over the past several months, dropping nearly 100% between November 2021 and early February 2022.

According to Jukka Blomberg, chief marketing officer at LocalBitcoins, the platform has not observed any huge changes in inflows or outflows in Russia and Ukraine over the past week. “During February 24th the activity on LocalBitcoins’ platform in the Ukraine increased 30% compared to normal and there were also slight increases in activities on LocalBitcoins’ platform in Russia,” Blomberg told Cointelegraph.

Patreon Removes Ukrainian Charity Raising Military Aid Citing Policy Violation

The non-profit is also raising funds in bitcoin but Patreon was the most convenient way for foreigners to donate to the fund, according to the charity’s director.

Patreon, a subscription platform for artists and creatives, has de-platformed a Ukrainian non-profit that is running a crowdfunding campaign to support the country’s military against a Russian invasion.

  • According to a post on Patreon’s website, the charity “Come Back Alive” was removed because it claimed to be using contributions to “finance and train military personnel.”
  • “We don’t allow Patreon to be used for funding weapons or military activity. It is a violation of our policies, and so we have removed the page,” the statement said, adding that all remaining funds in the charity’s account will be refunded to contributors.
  • Come Back Alive claims to have raised around $670,000 in just one day this week, according to a Bloomberg report from Thursday.
  • Taras Chmut, director of Come Back Alive, told CNBC on Thursday that Patreon was the most convenient platform for foreigners looking to send donations.
  • The charity’s website lists multiple ways to donate funds including using payment system Swift and bank accounts. So far, Patreon seems to be the only fundraising method to be disrupted.
  • The charity is also raising funds in bitcoin, and has received close to $5 million worth of bitcoin to one wallet address listed on its website, according to data from Blockchain.com. Only around $150,000 worth of bitcoin have left the wallet so far.
  • On Friday, Ukraine’s official Twitter account posted a link to the Come Back Alive donation page, which includes details for its bitcoin wallet.
  • It is unclear how the funds are currently being distributed as the charity has not updated its reporting on donations since Wednesday.

Ethereum Mining Pool Flexpool Halts All Services To Russia In Wake Of Ukraine Invasion

The pool is possibly the first of its kind to cut services to Russian users.

Flexpool, the world’s fifth-largest Ethereum mining pool, became possibly the first of its ilk to cut services to Russian users following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

* The move was taken to show solidarity with Ukraine.

* “We generally do not get involved in politics despite our personal views as a company,” a Flexpool spokesperson said in a message on Thursday evening on its official Telegram channel. “However, this is greater than politics, greater than anyone. This is a war that may end the world. It certainly is ending the lives of many innocent people in Eastern Europe.”

* The pool doesn’t want to profit off the crisis or fund it indirectly, so is canceling all services to Russian IP addresses and paying outstanding balances to affected users, the message said, with an apology to Russian miners.

* Flexpool is the world’s fifth-biggest ether mining pool, according to information platform miningpoolstats.com. It is probably the first to cut access for Russians amid the security crisis.

* Hiveon, the second-largest pool, posted a message of solidarity with Ukraine on its Telegram channel, saying it is “impossible to stay away from the violence in Ukraine,” but didn’t announce any action.

* Reddit users have pointed out that miners can use efficient virtual private networks (VPNs) to bypass Flexpool’s restrictions.

Crypto Network Promises Hack-Proof History of Ukraine Attack

* Millions Of Tweets, Photos Are Being Archived Through Arweave
* Network’s Decentralization Of Data Protects Against Hacking

Crypto technology could play a unique role in how Russia’s intensifying invasion of Ukraine gets recorded into history.

Videos of Russian troops occupying Chernobyl and explosions rocking Kyiv make up some of the millions of digital records documenting the conflict being held on Arweave, a decentralized data storage network.

It’s the decentralization that’s key to why Arweave says its archive will prove so vital. Because there are lots of copies of the data stored in lots of places, it essentially can’t be hacked or erased — even if one copy goes down, there are plenty of back-ups. Plus, the data can’t be edited once it’s put onto the network.

“We started this project to build a censorship-resistant ledger of history,” said Sam Williams, Arweave co-founder and chief executive officer.

Cyber warfare has already played a role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Kyiv Post, an English-language news site in Ukraine, has been targeted by digital attacks. The site has had articles uploaded to Arweave for preservation, Williams said. Meanwhile, Russia has partially limited access to Facebook and slowed access to Twitter on mobile devices over disagreements on content.

Already, Arweave holds more than 6.6 million tweets, videos, photos and articles related to the Ukraine conflict, according to ViewBlock, a data tracker that logs Arweave transactions. Anyone with a crypto wallet, and who’s willing to pay a fee of about 1 cent per megabyte, is able to add to the archive. The trove of data can be accessed publicly through the ViewBlock website.

The swift and massive influx of data shows the power of being able to add to the archive of history in real time. While social media can widely disseminate information, sifting through and preserving that information is a challenge. But Arweave’s digital records can act as public vault, securing the information in one place for decades to come.

Getting Started

Williams, 29, dropped out of a computer science doctoral program at England’s University of Kent to start Arweave in 2017. After studying periods like Nazi Germany, he wanted to build a platform for keeping a permanent historical record that couldn’t be edited.

“One of the most important things authoritarian rulers tried to do was control the information space,” he said.

The immutability of distributed, digital ledgers known as blockchains appealed to Williams. He said Arweave is “blockchain-like,” but uses a structure called a blockweave that’s better for storing large files like videos and documents.

“The ledger replicates the information across the world in hundreds, if not thousands of different places,” he said, without specifying exactly how many computers Arweave data is stored on.

Network users known as miners earn Arweave crypto tokens that can be exchanged for cash by using their computers to store the data.

The network guarantees 200 years of storage time. That’s of course assuming that the technology doesn’t become outdated in that time. And there’s also a question of whether the data that’s put into the network now will still be in a format that’s accessible over that long time-frame. (Cassette tapes still hold a lot of data, for instance, but not many people have a way to listen to them now.)

Arweave has raised funds from Andreessen Horowitz, Coinbase Ventures and Union Square Ventures and also makes its own investments. Along with Blockchain Capital and Sino Global Capital, the company just led a $17.2 million seed round in ArDrive, an enterprise data storage product based on Arweave.

Other Archives

The Russian invasion of Ukraine isn’t the first time Arweave has been used to store data during times of conflict.

The first major event the platform documented was the Kerch Strait incident, when the Russian Coast Guard captured three Ukrainian naval vessels and held them hostage in 2018.

Along with other news reports, Arweave stored an article from Russian state-media agency Sputnik International that was later taken down and replaced with a version with a more pro-Russian tone.

Arweave has also been used to store documents related to protests in Hong Kong, as well as to preserve articles from Apple Daily, a pro-democracy newspaper in the city that Beijing shut down in June.

The current Ukraine-Russia archive is Arweave’s biggest data collection to date and has swiftly increased. The number of documents added daily to the archive grew 15 times between Feb. 15 and Feb. 24, according to data from ViewBlock.

“The traction of Arweave is even more recognized now,” said Balthazar Gronon, chief technology officer of Ashlar, the blockchain data provider that developed ViewBlock.

Still, it’s worth noting that while the Arweave archive can’t be hacked in the sense of making the data disappear, there are still ways that these kinds of digital records can be manipulated. Since anyone can add to the collection, that includes the possibility of being flooded with inaccurate accounts and misinformation.

Support From Bundlr

Williams said his team first started building the Ukraine-Russia archive a few weeks ago. The project’s current biggest contributor is Bundlr Network, a platform with the goal of making it easier to add data to Arweave.

Bundlr Network launched in September with a focus on supporting non-fungible token storage. It started archiving as tensions increased in Ukraine, according to founder and CEO Josh Benaron.

Benaron, based in London, and another developer on Bundlr Network’s six-person team have worked on automating the archiving process, such as by building a tool that gathers tweets that include keywords and the names of Ukrainian cities.

Benaron said that tweets make up about half of what they archive, and most of the videos they add depict explosions in Ukraine. He said that they’re also pulling in articles from both Russian and Ukrainian news outlets. Bundlr Network is covering the costs of storing the data.

​​“It’s important for me to provide a true archive of what’s happening at the time from different perspectives,” he said. “The biggest challenge for us is capturing all the data.”

Sports And Entertainment World Cuts Ties With Russia: Here’s What’s Canceled

* Formula One, Eurovision, IOC Condemn Attacks On Ukraine
* Russian Tennis Star Daniil Medvedev Says ‘I’m All For Peace’

International sports and cultural organizations are reacting to the invasion of Ukraine, relocating and canceling upcoming events in Russia.

The International Olympic Committee on Friday urged all sports organizations to move or cancel events in Russia and Belarus, citing a violation of a Union Nations resolution that a truce between all 193 UN member nations would be respected until March 20, or seven days after the close of the Paralympic Games.

In racing, Formula 1 canceled the Russian Grand Prix, which was scheduled for Sept. 23. “We are watching the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock and hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to the present situation,” according to a statement by the FIA on the Formula 1 website Thursday. The Haas F1 team confirmed to ESPN that it will make a decision on its sponsorship deal with Russia’s Uralkali, and it took part in pre-season testing on Friday in a plain white car.

In tennis, the ATP Challenger tournament planned to take place in Moscow on Feb. 28 was canceled due to concerns over player safety and uncertainty related to international travel. Russian tennis star Daniil Medvedev, who will become the No. 1 player in the ATP rankings, told reporters on Thursday about the invasion, “It’s just not easy to hear all this news. I’m all for peace.”

The International Ski Federation said six upcoming events that were scheduled to take place in Russia will be either canceled or moved to another location “in the interest of the safety of all participants and to maintain the integrity of the World Cup.”

The European football governing body, UEFA, said the May 28 final of its Champions League tournament will be relocated from Saint Petersburg to Paris “following the grave escalation of the security situation in Europe.”

Premier League team Manchester United has withdrawn sponsorship rights for Russian airline Aeroflot in light of the events in Ukraine. “We share the concerns of our fans around the world and extend our sympathies to those affected,” the club said on its website.

Beyond sports, the Eurovision Song Contest, an international songwriting competition that drew 183 million viewers last year, will bar Russian acts from participating. “In light of the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine, the inclusion of a Russian entry would bring the competition into disrepute,” the European Broadcasting Union said in a tweet.

China State Banks Restrict Financing For Russian Commodities

* ICBC Stops Issuing Letters Of Credit After Ukraine Invasion
* China’s Top Banks Have Complied With Previous U.S. Sanctions

At least two of China’s largest state-owned banks are restricting financing for purchases of Russian commodities, underscoring the limits of Beijing’s pledge to maintain economic ties with one of its most important strategic partners in the face of sanctions by the U.S. and its allies.

Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd.’s offshore units stopped issuing U.S. dollar-denominated letters of credit for purchases of physical Russian commodities ready for export, two people familiar with the matter said. Yuan-denominated letters of credit are still available for some clients, subject to approvals from senior executives, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private information.

The move followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which triggered a wave of sanctions from countries including the U.S., the U.K. and Japan and stoked speculation that more may follow. Because commodity-linked letters of credit are issued so frequently, they would be among the first transactions impacted by the threat of sanctions.

Bank of China Ltd. has also curbed financing for Russian commodities based on its own risk assessment, another person said. The lender has yet to receive explicit guidance on Russia from Chinese regulators, two people said.

The Chinese banks’ response could be temporary, especially given that Western sanctions have so far spared Russia’s energy sector. It’s unclear whether Chinese banks have pulled back from other forms of financing for Russian companies and individuals, and their policies could change.

The curbs highlight the difficult balancing act facing China’s biggest financial institutions and the nation’s president, Xi Jinping. While Russia is a major energy supplier to China and the countries often find themselves aligned in geopolitical disputes with the U.S., Russia’s economic weight pales in comparison to Western nations that buy many of China’s exports and control its access to the dollar-dominated international financial system.

China’s four largest banks have complied with previous U.S. sanctions against Iran, North Korea and even top officials in Hong Kong because they need access to the U.S. dollar clearing system, a person familiar with the matter said. In a phone call with Vladimir Putin on Friday, Xi urged the Russian leader to negotiate with Ukraine to defuse tensions.

“Chinese financial institutions take sanctions compliance seriously,” said Ben Kostrzewa, foreign legal consultant at Hogan Lovells in Hong Kong, who formerly handled U.S.-China disputes and negotiations at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. “They don’t want to be sanctioned themselves, they can’t lose access to U.S. dollar transactions, so they are going to have to think about it very seriously — whatever the geopolitical impact might be.”

ICBC, Bank of China and the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

With international lenders including ING Groep NV and Rabobank also imposing restrictions on commodity-trade finance linked to Russia, demand for the nation’s resource exports could dwindle. Chinese state-owned coal importers are unable to get credit lines from banks in Singapore for shipments from Russia, people familiar with the matter said.

U.S. sanctions put China’s state-owned financial institutions in a tough spot because many have established close ties with Russia over the past decade.

ICBC’s Moscow branch alone had close to $1 billion of assets by the end of 2020 and offered an extensive range of yuan-denominated services, including deposits, lending, cross-border settlement and trade finance. Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. and China Construction Bank Corp. all have operations in Russia.

China’s largest policy banks — China Development Bank and Export-Import Bank of China — have provided tens of billions of dollars of credit to Russia as part of Xi’s Belt-and-Road Initiative, funding everything from infrastructure to oil and gas.

Putin Huddles With Tycoons To Offer Banks Bulk Of State Aid

* Russian Aid Will Initially Focus On Helping Sanctioned Lenders
* U.S. Says Sanctions Target 80% Of Russian Banking Assets

Banks are taking precedence for President Vladimir Putin as Russia devises a domestic response to sanctions rolled out by western governments over the invasion of Ukraine.

Russian state aid will initially focus on assisting lenders hit with penalties, according to two people who attended a closed meeting with Putin to address the impact of the conflict on big business.

First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov asked the gathered billionaires and corporate titans to keep working with sanctioned banks, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the meeting was private. The remarks came after the public part of the Thursday event, in which Putin warned that the west shouldn’t seek to push Russia out of the global economy.

The message underscores the urgency facing the government at home while the showdown in Ukraine intensifies. Retaining depositor confidence is crucial in a country where bouts of economic turmoil have in the past wiped out savings and prompted bank runs.

Belousov didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The promise of aid came in the hours before the U.S. announced it would sanction many of Russia’s biggest lenders, including state-owned Sberbank PJSC and VTB Group, targeting nearly 80% of Russian banking assets. President Joe Biden said the measures “exceed anything that’s ever been done” and will hamper Russia’s ability to do business in foreign currency.

VTB was also hit with full blocking sanctions, while the U.K. announced an asset freeze against major Russian banks, including an immediate freeze against VTB.

Sberbank head Herman Gref and VTB chief Andrey Kostin attended the meeting in the Kremlin’s St. Catherine Hall, the same room where Putin convened his security council two days earlier in a staged event to weigh the invasion of Ukraine. Gazprom’s Alexey Miller and Igor Sechin, the head of Rosneft who was sanctioned Thursday by the U.S., were also in attendance.

The measures by western governments came as Russian forces push deeper into Ukraine in a three-pronged attack and move closer to the capital, Kyiv. The European Union also backed a broad sanctions package to limit Russia’s access to Europe’s financial sector and restricting key technologies.

But the penalties also included carve-outs for energy payments, a crucial source of revenue for Moscow, and held off from barring Russia from the Swift international banking network.

Despite isolated reports of Russians queuing to withdraw cash, calm has largely prevailed so far and markets stabilized on Friday. Sberbank shares rallied Friday 4.6% as of 3:00 p.m. in Moscow but are down by more than half this week. Shares in VTB were down 4.7% after falling 42% Thursday.

The U.S. sanctions do not come into force for a month, which could help explain the relative calm. In December 2014, plunging oil prices sent the ruble crashing and led to clients withdrawing 1.3 trillion rubles ($15 billion) in a single week from Sberbank.

Business As Usual?

Sberbank said its branches continue to function as usual and clients are not facing any restrictions, including on currency exchange. Before the sanctions were announced on Thursday, it published a statement that it later retracted about how a ban on foreign exchange operations would affect corporate customers.

VTB responded with a statement saying the “sanctions came as no surprise” and that it has several plans to counter the measures to minimize the impact on its clients. It also sold its stakes in Pochta Bank and Cyprus-based RCB Bank.

Even so, the central bank on Friday advised banks to postpone dividend payments and bonuses to managers to maintain financial stability. It also announced it loosened the short-term liquidity ratio for systemically important banks.

Many Russian lenders have scaled back their international ambitions since being hit sectoral sanctions since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. VTB maintains offices in London and Zug, Switzerland, as well as China, Angola and some post-Soviet states.

State-owned banks have been bracing for more sanctions as relations with the West deteriorated. Russia has built up its financial reserves to over $600 billion, developed a domestic payments system, Mir, and steadily reduced reliance on foreign currency.

The central bank said early Friday it would support sanctioned banks and noted that about 80% of the balances at the affected lenders are in rubles. It offered help with rubles and foreign currency.

A day earlier, the Bank of Russia announced it will intervene in the foreign exchange market for the first time in years, expand its Lombard list of securities accepted as collateral and provide additional liquidity to lenders in repo auctions.

“After 2014, Russia has been preparing for a dark day,” said Anton Tabakh, chief economist at Moscow-based credit assessor Expert RA. “The banking system is well capitalized, there are reserves and capabilities. The central bank is acting very reasonably.”

Russia’s Ukraine Invasion Chokes Food Exports From Global Breadbasket

Prices for wheat jumped to their highest levels in 12 years, adding to pressure on global food inflation.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine throttled exports from one of the world’s largest grain suppliers after the country’s ports went quiet and traders halted operations.

At stake is the 13% of global corn exports and the 12% of wheat that flow from Ukraine. In threatening those flows Moscow risks disrupting supplies to China while setting off a scramble among customers in fragile Middle Eastern economies at a time when food inflation is already high.

Missiles and airstrikes have battered cities throughout Ukraine, including port cities key to the country’s agricultural exports. Commercial shipping in and out of the country has largely ground to a halt.

An ocean vessel chartered by one of the world’s largest food suppliers, Cargill Inc., was hit by a projectile off the coast of Ukraine in the Black Sea on Thursday. Minnesota-based Cargill, which operates an export terminal in Ukraine, said the ship is seaworthy and no one was injured.

U.S. grains giants have also begun closing operations. Archer Daniels Midland Co. closed its facilities in Ukraine, which include a grain terminal at a port near Odessa. Bunge Ltd. also closed its offices and facilities in Ukraine.

Wheat futures traded in Chicago have jumped almost 12% so far this week, hitting their highest level since July 2012. European wheat prices have soared 15% for the week.

Russia’s incursions in the south and in the east strike at the heart of Ukraine’s most productive wheat-growing regions, which stretch across the country’s southern half, from Kharkiv on the eastern border with Russia to Odessa on the country’s Black Sea coastline.

The fighting shouldn’t have much impact on the planting or harvesting of crops, according to Mike Lee, owner of Green Square Agro Consulting, a crop forecasting company that specializes in the Black Sea region. Wheat, for instance, is planted in September and October and harvested in July and the following months.

“Whatever happens, there is a crop in the ground,” he said.

Still, if the situation on the ground escalates to a position where farmers can’t apply pesticides or fertilizers to their wheat, which will start in March, that could reduce the yield by up to a third, presuming they can harvest in July, Mr. Lee said.

While a large portion of crops are exported around the time they are harvested, cargoes will leave Ukraine throughout the year, he said. Over 700,000 metric tons of wheat are exported during each of the months of February, March and April, according to government statistics.

That is well below the 3.64 million and 4.5 million tons exported in August and September respectively, but enough to disturb crop supply chains. Damaged infrastructure and port congestion could also affect trading well into the year.

Shipping in the Azov Sea—an extension of the Black Sea to the east of Crimea—has stopped. Ships are banned from passing through the narrow Kerch Strait into the shallow sea, and ship-tracking data showed dozens of ships, including the bulk carriers that transport grains, had anchored in the strait.

Russian and Ukrainian ports on the Azov Sea export up to 18 million tons of grains each year, said Andrey Sizov, managing director of SovEcon, a Russian research firm focusing on Black Sea grains.

Damage to port infrastructure or a Russian naval blockade would also threaten the much larger Ukrainian ports around Odessa and Mykolaiv. Ports around the two cities handle upward of 50 million metric tons of grain each year and are crucial to Ukraine’s agricultural industry, said Mr. Sizov.

Simon Arnold, co-founder of Dubai-based Aria Commodities, said his trading firm would hold off from trading grains in Ukraine for at least a month or until the situation appears resolved.

Disruptions to Ukraine’s grain trade will also be difficult for its main customers, as the world already swallows food-price inflation.

Beijing has made Ukraine a centerpiece of its efforts to diversify grain supplies and increase food security. Chinese demand for corn is at a record high after Beijing encouraged domestic producers to pile into hog production.

Ukraine exported a record 8.2 million tons of corn to China in 2021, making up nearly 30% of total Chinese corn imports. Ukraine accounted for as much as 86% of Chinese corn imports in 2019. Ukraine also exports barley and sunflower oil to China.

Disruptions to Ukrainian corn exports come at an especially difficult time for Chinese pork producers, which have been losing money as hog prices drop.

Egypt and Indonesia are the largest buyers of Ukrainian wheat, each accounting for more than 15% of Ukraine’s wheat imports, or more than 3 million tons, according to data from Trade Data Monitor. Other major buyers are Turkey and Pakistan, which imported 1.7 million and 1.3 million tons of wheat, respectively, from Ukraine in 2021.

For Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, access to affordable wheat is a question of political stability. Rallying prices have led to street protests, including ones in 2011 during the Arab Spring, which toppled the government of Hosni Mubarak.

On Thursday, Egypt canceled an international tender to buy wheat after receiving just one bid amid the uncertainty surrounding Black Sea grains supplies. Egypt’s import agency typically receives between 10 and 20 bids in its closely watched tenders.

For Ukraine itself, the agricultural sector is one of the key bright spots of its economy. The yellow in the country’s flag symbolizes its crop fields.

Any disruption to its grains trade will be painful. With more than 41 million hectares of agricultural land, covering 70% of the country, agriculture is Ukraine’s largest export and the largest part of its economy, accounting for 14% of gross domestic product in the third quarter of last year, according to the country’s statistics service.

Last year the Ukrainian government changed its laws to allow hundreds of thousands of small and medium-size farmers to buy and sell land. That allowed them to borrow money on the land they had, and invest those proceeds.

The U.S. and European governments had already zeroed in on agriculture as a way to develop the Ukrainian economy. The U.S. Agency for International Development, for instance, says it has provided around $13 million since late 2019 to support the passage of these laws and educate farmers in how to take advantage of the changes.

Even before the invasion, geopolitical tensions were putting pressure on Ukrainian farmers.

Larissa Boden, whose business Agro-focus Ltd. was planting its next crop of asparagus last week, has seen a 30% increase in the price of fuel.

Agro-focus, the country’s largest asparagus farmer, had been negotiating a bank loan but the lender has put those talks on hold. Ms. Boden, who farms in the south close to Crimea, was also concerned that war would mean the seasonal workers farms depend upon would leave to work in more stable countries.

On Thursday, after hearing explosions in the early morning, she said she stayed indoors and off her fields.

 

Updated: 2-26-2022

MIT Cuts Ties With Russia Tech Center In Protest Of Invasion

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is ending a decade-long collaboration with one of Russia’s leading technology institutes in response to the nation’s invasion of Ukraine.

The university “is exercising its right to terminate the MIT Skoltech Program,” according to an announcement on MIT’s homepage for the partnership. “This step is a rejection of the actions of the Russian government in Ukraine.”

The termination of the program, which began in 2011, is a pointed public action by a U.S. university to repudiate the Russian invasion, potentially opening the door to similar actions by other U.S. institutions.

It reverses MIT’s 2019 decision to extend the partnership with the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology for five years despite security concerns and ties to the Kremlin’s inner circle.

MIT is taking action “with deep regret because of our great respect for the Russian people and our profound appreciation for the contributions of the many extraordinary Russian colleagues we have worked with,” according to the statement, which cites a decision by MIT President L. Rafael Reif.

“We affirm our steadfast belief in our colleagues at Skoltech: They are fellow scholars who have devoted themselves to an ethos of openness and who have contributed their own expertise and knowledge to build a unique and pioneering academic center in Russia.”

The collaboration included grants, conferences and faculty support. The Skolkovo Institute is an anchor of what has been called “Moscow’s self-styled Silicon Valley.”

A spokesperson from Skolkovo said the institute would “do our best” to support the projects that began under the partnership with MIT.

“We will make sure that the students involved can complete their research and academic work without interruption,” the spokesperson said in a statement Saturday.

Reif recently announced he is resigning from MIT, effective at the end of the year, after leading the university for a decade.

In Boston, supporters of Ukraine are planning a protest on the central Common on Sunday. A 7,000-member Facebook group has changed its name from “Russian Boston” to “Russian Speaking Boston.”

Hackers Destroyed Data At Key Ukraine Agency Before Invasion

* Ministry Of Internal Affairs Oversees The National Police
* Large Volume Of Telecom Data Also Stolen Amid Troop Buildup

In the buildup to Russia’s invasion, hackers detonated powerful data-destroying software on the network of Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, and they siphoned off large amounts of data from the country’s telecommunications network, according to three people involved in investigations into the incidents.

The attacks dealt a blow to a key Ukrainian law enforcement agency — responsible for overseeing the national police — while giving the hackers potentially valuable insights into the communications and movements of people inside the country before Russian troops began their assault, the people said. They requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the confidential investigations publicly.

The details, which haven’t been previously reported, illustrate the growing role of cyber operations in modern military conflicts and the range of threats facing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as Russian forces fight to seize control of the country. The people involved in the investigations didn’t say who was behind the cyberattacks.

Representatives of the Ukrainian government didn’t respond to requests for comment.

On Wednesday, the day before the invasion, multiple governmental websites in Ukraine experienced disruptions that appeared to be the result of distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, attacks. Security researchers said they included the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Researchers at the cybersecurity firm ESET LLC had said that more than three Ukrainian organizations were compromised Wednesday with destructive malware that infected a few hundred computers at those organizations.

“This was not a widespread attack. They pinpointed specific organizations and then went in and deployed the malware,” said Jean-Ian Boutin, ESET’s head of threat research, who declined to name the specific organizations affected. “The fact that this happened a few hours before the full-scale invasion, it leads us to believe these organizations were targeted for a reason.”

The three people involved in the investigations identified the Ministry of Internal Affairs as one of the organizations compromised by the data-destroying malware. The extent of the damage is unclear. One of the people said key officials had evacuated, and as a result, security specialists have been unable to conduct a full forensics investigation of its network.

Another person said the hackers removed large amounts of data from the agency’s network before detonating the malware, indicating that they were likely gathering intelligence about the agency’s operations before attempting to disrupt them.

The three people also said that the deployment of the destructive malware coincided with yet another attack, in which hackers began removing large amounts of data from Ukrainian telecommunications systems in the weeks leading up to the invasion, apparently activating malicious code — or implants — that had been embedded into those systems during earlier intrusions.

The name of the telecommunications company or companies impacted by the attack weren’t immediately available.

Some details of the cyberattacks against Ukraine have trickled out since January.

On Jan. 15, for instance, Microsoft Corp. disclosed that it had discovered a new type of destructive malware on “dozens of impacted systems” spanning “multiple government, nonprofit and information technology organizations, all based in Ukraine.” It didn’t identify any victims.

Coming at a time when Russia was massing troops on Ukraine’s borders, and U.S. and European intelligence services were warning that Putin was preparing an invasion, the discovery raised fears that Ukraine’s defenses could be substantially diminished by a coordinated detonation of data-wiping code.

On Feb. 15 and 16, government and financial websites in Ukraine came under a disruptive DDoS attack that Mykhailo Fedorov, minister of digital transformation, said was the worst of its kind the country had ever seen. “This attack was unprecedented, it was prepared well in advance, and its key goal was destabilization, sowing panic and creating chaos in our country,” Fedorov said.

U.S. and U.K. officials attributed those attacks to Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, the same organization accused the 2017 NotPetya attacks, which involved similar “wiper” malware. Those attacks began in Ukraine but spread across the globe, causing an estimated $10 billion in damages.

Russia has repeatedly denied being behind cyberattacks.

Poland Refuses To Play Russia In Soccer World Cup Qualifier

Warsaw, Poland (AP) — Poland’s refusal to play its World Cup qualifier against Russia next month in response to that nation’s invasion of Ukraine gained wider support when Sweden followed with its own plans to protest to FIFA on Saturday.

Polish soccer federation president Cezary Kulesza announced Poland’s decision and said it was in talks with other federations to present a unified position to FIFA, which is responsible for the March 24 game in Moscow.

“No more words, time to act!” Kulesza wrote on Twitter, adding the move was prompted by the “escalation of the aggression.”

Also Saturday, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich suddenly handed over the “stewardship and care” of the Premier League club to its charitable foundation trustees. The move came after a member of the British parliament called for the Russian billionaire to hand over the club in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Abramovich, who has owned Chelsea since 2003, made no mention of the war in his statement.

He said: “I have always taken decisions with the Club’s best interest at heart. I remain committed to these values. That is why I am today giving trustees of Chelsea’s charitable Foundation the stewardship and care of Chelsea.”

Poland captain Robert Lewandowski and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny were among those supporting its federation’s decision, with the Bayern Munich striker saying “we can’t pretend that nothing is happening.”

Sweden, a potential opponent of Russia in next month’s playoffs, later joined Poland in declaring its national team would not play a match against the Russians regardless of where it takes place.

The Czech Republic, another team to potentially face Russia, is likely to follow suit.

Under the circumstances, “it’s almost impossible to imagine that such a game would take place,” said Petr Fousek, the head of the Czech football association. “It’s very likely we will follow the Polish and Swedish scenario.”

The association’s executive committee will meet later to decide, Fousek said.

Sweden made its position clear.

“The illegal and deeply unjust invasion of Ukraine currently makes all football fixtures with Russia impossible,” said Karl-Erik Nilsson, the Swedish federation’s chairman. “We therefore urge FIFA to decide that the playoff matches in March in which Russia participates will be canceled.”

The winner of the Poland-Russia match is due to host Sweden or the Czech Republic on March 29 for a place at the World Cup being played in Qatar from Nov. 21-Dec. 18.

“We have a hard time believing,” Nilsson added, “that FIFA will not follow our call. Russia can not join as long as this madness continues.”

Nilsson is also first vice president at UEFA which has stripped Russia of hosting the Champions League final in St. Petersburg in May. UEFA decided Friday to move that game to Paris.

Lewandowski, Poland’s all-time leading scorer and winner of FIFA’s best-player award for the past two years, supported Kulesza’s announcement.

“I can’t imagine playing a match with the Russian National Team in a situation when armed aggression in Ukraine continues,” Lewandowski said on Twitter. “Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can’t pretend that nothing is happening.”

FIFA has yet to take a clear position on Russia hosting or even playing against Poland.

European soccer body UEFA said Friday that in its competitions all Russian and Ukrainian teams must now move their home games to play in other countries.

A potential precedent for action is from 1992. Both FIFA and UEFA removed Yugoslavia from their competitions following sanctions imposed by the United Nations at the outbreak of war there.

Previously, Poland had only said it did not want to play the qualifying playoff semifinal in Moscow.

In other sports, Norway’s ski federation said Saturday that Russian skiers are not welcome to compete in the Nordic country because of Russia’s “violations of international law and attacks on the Ukrainian people.”

Norway’s call directly contradicts International Ski Federation (FIS) policy announced late Friday and comes days after the winter sport power topped the Beijing Olympics medal table with a record 16 golds.

Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine since Thursday requires “international condemnation and sanctions,” the Norwegian federation said.

On Friday, FIS pulled its remaining World Cup events this season from Russia but later allowed Russians to carry on competing.

In a statement Saturday, the International Gymnastics Federation said: “All FIG-sanctioned events planned to take place in Russia and Belarus are removed from the FIG calendar and will no longer be recognized by the FIG. No other events taking place in Russia and Belarus will be sanctioned by the FIG until further notice.”

FIG President Morinari Watanabe said: “Our thoughts go to the members of the Gymnastics community in Ukraine. Sport is friendship and solidarity. We must show solidarity with the members of our family who are in despair and offer them a helping hand to ensure their future.”

In Madrid, the Russian flag and anthem were absent before the match between the Russia women rugby team and Spain. The hosts won 27-0 to become Rugby Europe champion. That came a day after Rugby Europe suspended all events in Russia.

Russia withdrew its team from the biathlon World Cup series on Saturday in protest at new restrictions. The International Biathlon Union had ordered the Russia and Belarus teams to compete as “neutral athletes” without their country’s flag and anthem so that emblems of the two countries would not be on display.

Kyiv residents braced Saturday for another night sheltering underground, as Russian troops closed in on Ukraine’s capital and skirmishes were reported on the outskirts. Ukraine’s leader claimed that Ukraine’s forces had repulsed the assault and vowed to keep fighting. “We will win,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

SpaceX Starlink Satellite Internet Service Activated In Ukraine, Says Elon Musk

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk announced Saturday that the company’s Starlink internet satellites are now active in Ukraine as the country suffers power outages due to Russia’s invasion.

“Starlink service is now active in Ukraine,” Musk, the Tesla CEO, tweeted. “More terminals en route.”

Ukraine’s vice prime minister asked Musk to provide internet service to the country amid Russian attacks, and Musk delivered, according to a Twitter exchange between the two on Saturday.

Mykhailo Fedorov, who is also Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation, tweeted to Musk: “while you try to colonize Mars — Russia try to occupy Ukraine! While your rockets successfully land from space — Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people!

We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and to address sane Russians to stand.”

Starlink is a satellite-based internet constellation intended to blanket the planet in high-speed broadband and could potentially bring connectivity to billions of people who still lack reliable internet access.

The idea requires swarms of satellites operating in low-Earth orbit — roughly 340 miles high, in SpaceX’s case — to provide continuous coverage.

The Twitter exchange took place as Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his country’s deterrence forces, which includes nuclear arms, to be placed on high alert. Ukrainian Deputy Interior Minister Evgeny Yenin said talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations will take place Monday morning.

There have been “intermittent” power outages in Ukraine, but the internet is still “generally available,” a senior US defense official told reporters Saturday.

The Starlink system was recently used in Tonga, in the South Pacific Ocean, to provide internet service to connect remote villages following the eruption of an underwater volcano in January, according to SpaceX. The eruption was likely the biggest recorded anywhere on the planet in more than 30 years, CNN reported.

UkraineDAO Organized For War Relief Efforts

Members of PussyRiot, PleasrDAO, and Trippy Labs have formed UkraineDAO to raise funds for war relief.

Key Takeaways

* Russian Protest Band Pussy Riot Is Collaborating With PleasrDao, Trippy Labs, And Others To Organize A Dao For Ukrainian War Relief Efforts.

* The Effort Aims To Buy NFTS Of The Ukraine Flag And Donate The Proceeds To Charities Aiding Ukraine Residents.

* NFT Minting Is Expected To Begin On Saturday, Feb. 26 With Prices Beginning At Just Over 0.08 Eth ($220).

A group of activists is creating UkraineDAO to raise funds for Ukrainian residents affected by Russia’s invasion of the country.
UkraineDAO

Nadya Tolokonnikova, a founding member of Russian protest rock group Pussy Riot, is cofounding a DAO to raise funds for the Ukrainian war effort.

“Our goal is to raise funds to donate to Ukranian civilian organizations who help those suffering from the war that Putin started in Ukraine,” Pussy Riot tweeted on Thursday, Feb. 24. “We’ll be buying an NFT of [the] Ukrainian flag.”

The effort will reportedly involve the minting of one unique, highly-priced Ukraine flag NFT alongside 10,000 Ukraine flag NFTs sold at lower prices to general investors.

Minting is expected to begin on Saturday, Feb. 26. The minting price of the NFT will be 0.08241991 ETH (about $220) in honor of Ukraine’s Declaration of Independence on Aug. 24, 1991.

UkraineDAO has endorsed two charities: Come Back Alive, which has raised over $4 milllion in crypto over the past few days, and Proliska, an NGO aiding residents near the East Ukraine contact line.

In addition to the NFT sale, UkraineDAO will create a website to take crypto donations and accept traditional funds. The group plans to integrate the site with the Ethereum Name Service.

Pussy Riot Partners With NFT Veterans

Tolokonnikova, popularly known as Nadya Tolokno, is a founding member of UkraineDAO. Tolokno is best known for a controversial incident in 2012, when she was arrested during a performance that intruded on a Russian Orthodox church.

The group also includes members of PleasrDAO, the group behind 2021’s FreeRossDAO charity effort, and members of Trippy Labs, a digital art collective involved in past NFT fundraisers.

Other groups supporting the effort include the NFT marketplace OpenSea and the crypto exchange MoonPay, according to statements from Trippy Labs quoted in Fortune. OhhShiny, a crypto influencer, has also donated 10 ETH ($27,000) to the fundraising effort.

Other Groups Raising Funds

Other groups are fundraising for Ukraine relief efforts as well. Matthew Liu, the founder of Origin Protocol, is seeking out creators to create a charity NFT. Liu said that he will “waive all proceeds and market [the NFT] heavily.” UkraineDAO has contacted Origin Protocol to collaborate, but a partnership has not been confirmed.

Elsewhere in the crypto community, various NFT creators have banded together in an effort called RELI3F to support Ukraine. Meanwhile, The Defiant also suggests that two other groups, Unchain Fund and HoleDAO are raising funds to the same end.

Crypto fundraisers are likely becoming popular in Ukraine both due to greater media coverage and due to the fact that Ukraine has limited digital payments under martial law.

Updated: 2-27-2022

Car Parts, Chips, Sunflower Oil: War In Ukraine Threatens New Shortages

The Russian invasion has shut down auto factories, hit steel supplies and severed transportation routes. Commodity prices are soaring for sunflower oil, natural gas and wheat.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is piling new troubles onto the world’s already battered supply chains. The fighting has shut down car factories in Germany that rely on made-in-Ukraine components and hit supplies for the steel industry as far as Japan. It has severed airways and land routes that had become crucial since the pandemic began gumming up sea trade.

The conflict is also bottling up Ukraine and Russia’s vast commodity exports, sending the price of oil, natural gas, wheat and sunflower oil rocketing. Shipping from Ukrainian ports, an important corridor for grain, metal and Russian oil shipments to the rest of the world, has all but ceased.

Freighters and airlines have warned that the decision by many European nations to close their airspace to Russia, as well as Russia’s tit-for-tat retaliation, will increase the cost of flying cargo from Europe to Asia, potentially making some routes commercially unviable.

Western sanctions—especially banning some Russian banks from the Swift global financial payment system—will make it cumbersome for many companies to conduct any type of trade with the country, even in sectors that aren’t being sanctioned.

There is also the risk of sanctions on individual Russian commodity players, or of Russia retaliating by choking off supply of its products.

Economists and business leaders fear this will hit supply chains that rely on components and little-known commodities from Russia such as neon gas and palladium, important ingredients to make semiconductors. Industries such as car manufacturing have already been disrupted by a surge in demand after the easing of pandemic lockdowns and persistent production bottlenecks.

The threat of rising prices on top of already high inflation adds another challenge for interest-rate-sensitive businesses: having to gauge whether the world’s central banks will accelerate their recent moves toward tighter money, or back off if they see a bigger risk to the global recovery.

The U.S. and its allies “issuing sanctions on Russia will have a reverberating impact on not only Russia, but the entire world,” said Dawn Tiura, president of Sourcing Industry Group, a U.S.-based trade body. Western politicians and experts in the field believe that while there will be an impact on their own economies, sanctions will deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from escalation elsewhere.

Last week, oil prices hit $100 a barrel for the first time in eight years. Aluminum is up over 20% this year to date and Russian-dominated palladium is up 26.7% over the same period. Wheat futures traded in Chicago jumped 12% last week to their highest level since 2012.

Some executives caution that it is too early to know how lasting the blows to supply chains will prove to be. They say that the effects of the war and sanctions are still unclear, that many companies can rely on stockpiles of parts and raw materials, and that Ukrainian wheat is mainly exported after harvest starting in August. Companies have bounced back from crises quicker than anticipated in the past.

The car industry, which has long relied on extended cross-border supply chains, was among the first to feel the blow of the fresh economic dislocations. Leoni AG , which makes wire systems in Ukraine that it ships to European auto makers, last week shut its two factories in Ukraine and sent the roughly 7,000 employees home.

The next day, Volkswagen AG said that it could no longer get wiring systems produced in Ukraine and would have to stop production at plants in Zwickau in eastern Germany, the most important factory in VW’s push into electric vehicles, and Dresden for several days this week. VW said it would have to furlough more than 8,000 workers until it could resume production.

Within hours of the invasion, car companies dependent on parts from China and Eastern Europe were forming task forces to plot out alternative routes. “Ukraine is not central to our supply chain, but suddenly we discovered that when this part is missing, it is,” a VW spokesman said.

Ukraine is home to 22 foreign companies like Leoni running 38 factories that make goods for the automotive industry, producing wire harnesses, electronics, seats and other products, according to UkraineInvest, a government body that promotes investment in the country.

“We don’t have a problem today, but it’s too early to tell if we have a problem,” a spokesman for Mercedes-Benz Group AG said.

The disruption of commodity and raw materials supplies from Russia and Ukraine could worsen a global semiconductor shortage that has already been roiling businesses world-wide. U.S. semiconductor makers import neon gas, the chemical compound hexafluorocyclobutene, and palladium, which are used to make chips, almost entirely from Russia and Ukraine, according Techcet, a research group that analyzes dependency on critical materials used in manufacturing.

Russia’s MMC Norilsk Nickel PJSC mines 40% of the world’s palladium, also used in catalytic converters to reduce vehicle emissions, as well as around 11% of global nickel production, used to make stainless steel and electric vehicle batteries, according to JP Morgan.

Russia mines around 4% of the world’s cobalt, another battery ingredient; a quarter of its vanadium, used in steel making; and 3.5% of its copper, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Caroline Phillipson’s breakfast food company, Your UnbelievaBowl, recently took in a big shipment of raw materials including nuts, seeds, berries and buckwheat, some of which come from the Black Sea region but have escaped any current supply snafus.

Like many executives, she has been watching events in Ukraine with horror, upset by the loss of life and concerned about the prospect of further inflationary pressure. Supply-chain issues have added some 20% onto the costs of her northeast England-based business over the past year.

“I can only envisage it getting a lot worse after this, with higher energy costs, and the cost of transport, the cost of ingredients, all going up,” she said.

The disruption to transportation is worsening by the day. At least 22 tankers are clogging the Kerch Strait, a key Russian-controlled waterway, according to shipping trackers, because ports are closed.

Greece, which operates up to a quarter of the global tanker fleet, is urging shipowners to pull their vessels from Russian and Ukrainian waters in the Black Sea, which is a choke point for several key commodities.

Russia and Ukraine combined account for almost a third of the world’s wheat exports, 19% of its corn exports and 80% of the world’s sunflower oil, according to Commerzbank AG, and much of that flows through Black Sea ports that are currently closed.

Soaring grain prices adds to concerns for the mainly developing world countries, like Egypt and Indonesia, that rely on the shipments and where food prices were already rising.

An ocean vessel chartered by one of the world’s largest food suppliers, Cargill Inc., was hit by a projectile off the coast of Ukraine in the Black Sea on Thursday. Minnesota-based Cargill, which operates an export terminal in Ukraine, said the ship is seaworthy and no one was injured.

Oleg Solodukhov, a partner at Kyiv-based shipping consulting firm Charterers, said one cargo of steel had been unable to leave the Ukrainian port of Mariupol after being informed Russian forces had laid mines at sea. Another cargo of iron ore couldn’t leave the port of Youjne, east of Odessa, after Ukrainian authorities shut the facility, he said.

The interruptions are helping prevent local steel operations, like ArcelorMittal SA’s giant plant, from restocking raw materials and exporting their goods out, ArcelorMittal said.

Ferrexpo PLC, a large exporter of iron-ore pellets to the steel industry, said it couldn’t get cargoes out of the port of Pivdennyi, in southwest Ukraine. That caused global steelmakers like Japan’s Nippon Steel Corp. and Austria’s Voestalpine AG , who buy these pellets, to scramble for alternatives, according to a person familiar with the matter.

A spokeswoman for Voestalpine said the effects of the situation in Ukraine are currently difficult to assess, but the company has inventories and will use other suppliers. Nippon Steel didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Market data shows that while Ferrexpo is smaller than the largest iron ore miners, its product is specific enough that finding an immediate replacement won’t be easy.

Further west along Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, the Ukrainian government closed the port in Odessa after the invasion started, leaving Germany’s Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG , or HHLA, to hastily process a final two container ships at its terminal there before the last of its 480 employees left.

Philip Sweens, who runs the international business for HHLA, said closure of the harbor will be another blow for Russian trade, which has declined by quarter since Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

If the port remains closed for long, he said, “getting foodstuff and things people need into the country will be a problem. Ukraine is the breadbasket of Europe, so the first thing Europeans will notice will be food prices.”

Since last year, major port congestion and difficulties in finding ships to get goods from Asia to the West, has pushed some companies to put cargo on trains that moved from China through Russia into Europe.

This journey has become important as an alternative to already disrupted sea routes, said Glenn Koepke, a senior vice president at FourKites Inc., a Chicago-based freight-tracking technology supplier. Mr. Koepke said more than 300,000 containers, measured in 20-foot equivalent units, moved by rail from China to the European Union in the first six months of last year.

U.S.-based Flexport Inc., a freight forwarder, said it has stopped accepting bookings for its Asia-to-Europe freight rail service that runs through Russia.

With airfreight in the region also coming under pressure, Flexport’s cargo freighters that usually fly over Russian and Ukrainian airspace between Asia and Europe are now taking a longer route over the Middle East, the company said. Russian airspace is the quickest route for flights between Europe and the Pacific Rim.

By Sunday, countries including the U.K., Poland and Bulgaria had banned Russian airlines from their airspace, according to flight-tracing service Flighttrader24.

Several freight forwarders, including Denmark-based DSV A/S and Germany-based Deutsche Post DHL, a unit of Deutsche Post AG, have suspended services to and from Ukraine and closed offices in the country.

French logistics operator Geodis said Friday it expects further airspace closures or airline-specific restrictions that could cause delays, reductions in capacity and rate increases. On Sunday, U.S.-based shipping giants FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc. suspended shipments into Russia, having earlier stopped doing so into Ukraine.

Updated: 2-28-2022

Russian Invasion Smothers Supplies From World’s Breadbasket

* Russia And Ukraine Account For A Quarter Of Global Grain Trade
* There Are Little Or No New Russian Grains Deals, Traders Say

After years of growing increasingly reliant on cheap and abundant wheat supplies from Russia and Ukraine, the world’s grains buyers are being forced to hunt elsewhere as flows from both countries dry up.

Ukraine’s ports are closed, and while some grain is still leaving Russia for now, traders and shipping representatives said there were little or no new deals being signed because of the uncertainty around the conflict, potential new sanctions and surging costs for freight and insurance.

Top importer Egypt held a wheat tender Monday but canceled it after only getting high-priced offers for French and American supplies.

It’s hard to overstate the role that Russia and Ukraine play in the global food trade. The two countries account for more than a quarter of global wheat trade, nearly a fifth of corn, and a whopping 12% of all calories traded globally, according to one estimate. Wheat futures breached a 13-year high this week.

“If the conflict is prolonged — three months, four months from now — I feel the consequences could be really serious,” said Andree Defois, president of consultant Strategie Grains. “Wheat will need to be rationed.”

Both countries have seen harvests and exports surge in the last decade and farmers in the region typically produce at lower costs than more traditional suppliers like Canada and the U.S., which has helped to keep wheat prices lower. That’s made it a “breadbasket of the world,” supplying affordable grain to swathes of consumers, said Michael Magdovitz, a senior analyst at Rabobank.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the shipping turmoil in the Black Sea have driven wild swings in crop prices as traders assess the potential impact on supplies and trade. Wheat futures in Chicago surged 23% in February, and corn and soybeans were both up about 10%. The gains continued Tuesday.

The disruptions come at a time when global crop prices had already soared because of poor weather and supply-chain snarls, adding to inflation and hunger. If Russia and Ukraine were to leave the global grain market for an extended period, it could have a dramatic effect on food supplies and prices.

“Even with Russian ports open, a lot of operators are afraid of working with the Black Sea,” Defois said. “Exporters and importers will be very careful with Russia.”

To be sure, other suppliers can offset some of the blow, and buyers are already sizing up their alternatives. India, traditionally not a major wheat shipper, is expected to sell a record amount abroad. Origins like France, Germany and the U.S. could also pick up business, said Cezar Gheorghe, a grain-trade consultant at Romanian Agri Column.

But the threat to both infrastructure and spring plantings — set to start soon — from the conflict in Ukraine may mean the hit to production is far-reaching, even if exports are able to restart.

“In Ukraine, which has for many years fed the world, including its poorest countries, the very existence of the agricultural market is in jeopardy,” said Kyiv-based researcher UkrAgroConsult. “The chain of product creation, from cultivation to port shipments, is paralyzed.”

UkrAgroConsult said that traders halted grain loadings late last week, and approaching ports is dangerous to ship crews. At least two vessels near Odesa have come under rocket fire, and international commodity houses suspended operations at Ukrainian trading departments and port terminals.

About two dozen crop cargoes were caught at Ukrainian ports in the midst of loading at least 630,000 tons of grain, according to Nabil Mseddi, chief executive officer of AgFlow. That includes wheat bound for Egypt, Algeria and Yemen, plus corn for China, South Korea and Spain.

The world’s grain supply cushion was already shrinking before war erupted, poised for a fifth straight drop. Egypt, the biggest wheat buyer, has canceled two straight import tenders, highlighting the tumult for global trade.

“Buyers are holding their breath at the moment,” Gheorghe said. “But for how long can they do that?”

 

Updated: 2-28-2022

Google Turns Off Maps’ Live Traffic Data In Ukraine For ‘Safety Of Locals’ Amid Russian Invasion

Googel said that it had taken the action for the “safety of local Ukrainian communities following consultations with sources including regional authorities.”

In a bid to delay Moscow’s onslaught, the tech giant Google has temporarily disabled its Maps’ live traffic data in Ukraine to protect users as the country faces Russian invasion, media reports said on Monday. The move came a day after the Ukrainian company in charge of building and maintaining roads informed that it was removing all road signs to confuse the invading Russian troops.

It is not known when exactly Google disabled the Maps live traffic data and what prompted the move, VICE World News reported. It is also not clear whether Google has ever disabled these features during previous conflicts or wars.

According to the report, the tech giant said that it had taken the action for the “safety of local Ukrainian communities following consultations with sources including regional authorities.”

The move seems to be prompted by reports claiming that people around the world were using the service to track the movements of troops and civilians during the Russian invasion, reported news agency IANS.

Google’s announcement followed a day after Ukrainian government called on “all road organisations, territorial communities, (and) local authorities to immediately start dismantling road signs nearby”.

“Dismantling road signs on all roads of the country. Priority #1 – indicators, names of settlements. Collected signs are handed over to local authorities and roadmen,” Ukravtodor, the government agency responsible for Ukraine’s national road system, wrote in a Facebook post.

“The enemy has a pathetic connection, they don’t orientate the area. Let’s help them go straight to hell.”

Experts had previously flagged the potential for Google’s data to be exploited by invading Russian forces, who could theoretically use the Maps traffic function to monitor Ukrainian troops and notice when they’re on the move, the report said.

Several social media platforms have blocked Russian media after President Vladimir Putin launched an attack into Ukraine last week.

Last weekend, Meta (formerly Facebook) had prohibited Russian state media from running ads or monetising on its platform anywhere in the world. The company has also blocked access to several Russian state-controlled accounts in Ukraine.

Google-owned YouTube has also announced it is temporarily halting the ability of a number of Russian channels, including state-sponsored RT, to monetise their content on the platform.

Earlier, Russia also blocked Twitter to stifle the flow of information as its invasion of Ukraine escalates.

Zelensky Asks EU To Admit Ukraine As A Member

With Ukraine still fighting to halt a Russian invasion, President Volodymyr Zelensky is asking European Union leaders to allow the country to immediately join the club, signing an application letter Monday afternoon.

EU leaders have taken some big steps to impose sanctions on Russia and support Ukraine in recent days–including unprecedented military assistance–but EU membership is a request the bloc is highly unlikely to accept.

The EU membership process can take years and involves broad economic, judicial and political changes. Even Balkan countries, like North Macedonia, that are carrying out such changes have spent years waiting for permission to even begin negotiations.

A number of EU capitals, including France, are wary of accepting any new members.

The EU did sign a broad trade and political agreement with Ukraine in 2014, a pact that the Kremlin had tried to defeat.

With EU leaders such as Ursula von der Leyen saying she hoped Ukraine would in the future join the club, member-state ambassadors discussed Monday morning whether an offer could be made for Ukraine to win official candidate status.

Those discussions were inconclusive. Given the length of time any membership process would take, several EU ambassadors were doubtful that even offering candidate status was a useful step, according to people briefed on the discussion.

However, others are supportive of offering candidate status and making a clear statement that Ukraine could join the bloc in the future.

Airbnb To Offer Temporary Housing To Ukrainian Refugees

Airbnb will offer free, temporary housing for 100,000 people fleeing Ukraine, the company said Monday.

Airbnb.org, a nonprofit established by the home-sharing company that works to provide housing during crises, will work with resettlement agencies and nongovernment organizations to place Ukrainian refugees across the world. The stays will be funded by Airbnb, donors to Airbnb.org’s Refugee Fund and Airbnb hosts offering discounted or free accommodation.

Airbnb.org said last week that it had provided housing to 21,300 Afghan refugees, and said it would offer temporary housing to an additional 20,000 refugees fleeing Afghanistan, Africa and the Middle East, among other regions.

Airbnb.org has offered temporary housing to more than 54,000 refugees and asylum seekers over the past five years, according to Airbnb.

Putin Imposes Capital Controls Including Restrictions On External Debt Payments

Russian President Vladimir Putin banned residents from sending money to bank accounts abroad and blocked payments on external debt, aggressive controls on capital flow made in response to punishing Western sanctions.

The Kremlin-issued decree said that foreign-exchange payments under loan agreements to non-residents of Russia were prohibited from March 1. It said that payments to banks and other financial-market organizations outside of Russia and money transfers through foreign payment service providers would be barred.

The U.S., European Union and other Western allies put forward plans to cut major Russian banks off the Swift financial network and to take action against the country’s central bank, aiming to prevent Russia from using its foreign-exchange reserves to cushion its economy.

Russia’s move to block debt servicing payments is likely to take some investors by surprise, as sanctions have historically allowed coupons and debt repayments. Sanctioned governments and companies typically continue to pay them despite restrictions, investors said.

“Usually under sanctions there are always exceptions for paying coupons and repaying bonds,” said Jerome Legras, managing partner of Axiom Alternative Investments. “I would be very surprised if coupon payments from VTB for example were not allowed.”

Blocking payments could lead to imminent default on Russian debt, said Timothy Ash, an emerging-market strategist at BlueBay Asset Management. “It’s a little unclear whether this means individuals, companies or the state–or all of the above, but it’s a very concerning headline,” he said.

A block on paying debts could “hit Russia’s financing for years to come,” he added. “It takes a long time for countries to get back to investment grade if they default.”

Rating company S&P Global cut Russia’s sovereign debt to junk status over the weekend and Moody’s issued a warning that it had placed the country on review for a potential downgrade.

Investors on Monday sent yields on Russia’s dollar-denominated bonds issued offshore soaring to over 24%. They were less than 3% to start the year.

U.S. Shutters Embassy In Belarus, Allows Relatives, Some Employees In Moscow To Depart

The U.S. State Department said it was closing the U.S. Embassy in Belarus and authorized the departure of non-emergency employees and diplomats’ relatives from its embassy in Moscow.

“We took these steps due to security and safety issues stemming from the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Belarus has been a staging ground for Russian attacks on Ukraine. A delegation led by Ukraine’s defense minister began cease-fire talks on Monday with Russian officials at the Ukrainian border with Belarus.

 

Updated: 2-28-2022

China Spy Think Tank Advising Xi Predicts Russia Sanctions Will Backfire

* Analyst Predicts Heavy Costs, Discord For U.S. And Its Allies
* Beijing Weighing How Closely To Support Partner After Invasion

Sanctions leveled on Russia will ultimately cause more damage to the U.S. and its allies, a research group that advises Chinese President Xi Jinping said, as Beijing weighs how much backing to give its close diplomatic partner.

Russia has largely adapted to dealing with punitive financial measures since 2014, when it was penalized for seizing Crimea, Ma Xue, an associate researcher at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, wrote in an article published on social media Tuesday.

U.S. and European allies will wind up suffering for supporting Ukraine, said Ma, whose research body is linked to the Ministry of State Security, China’s civilian intelligence agency.

Ma’s assessment contrasts with most early reactions to the measures, which included cutting off the Russian central bank from its pile of foreign exchange. That move sent the ruble tumbling the most since the 1990s.

A slew of foreign companies, including BP Plc and Shell Plc, are leaving the world’s No. 11 economy over the financial and reputational risks, and Russian industrial-metal exports have sunk as commodity buyers and financiers pull back.

China has so far refused to either criticize or endorse Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and abstained from a UN Security Council vote on a resolution condemning the move. On Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin repeated China’s call for dialogue between the two sides.

Cutting off Russian banks from the SWIFT money messaging system will wind up hurting Europe roughly as much, according to Ma, whose research body is linked to the Ministry of State Security, China’s civilian intelligence agency. Ma added that the U.S. could also incur major costs in the future providing economic and humanitarian aid to allies, and that Europe could be destabilized by large numbers of fleeing Ukrainians.

“If the Ukraine refugee crisis is not properly handled, this will be conducive for Russia to sow hatred and sabotage NATO,” Ma wrote. “The fierce debate on refugee problems inside Europe could also damage its unity at crucial moments.”

Still, China could provide some support for Russia to keep the punishments from biting too hard. Chinese companies are expected to scoop up discounted Russian oil if sanctions deter other buyers, traders have said.

It could also provide a financial lifeline because the People’s Bank of China has a multi-billion dollar currency swap with its counterpart in Moscow, allowing the nations to provide liquidity to businesses so they can continue trading.

Russia has also worked to remove the dollar’s hold over its financial system in recent years — selling most of its U.S. Treasuries in 2018 — as it girded for potential sanctions.

US Shutters Embassy In Belarus Amid Russia-Ukraine Peace Talks

As with mainstream financial markets, cryptocurrency has felt the ripples of the hostilities in Eastern Europe.

The U.S. closed the gates to its embassy in Minsk, Belarus, as peace talks between delegates from Russia and Ukraine commenced in Belarus on Monday.

* U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the suspension of operations at the Minsk embassy and authorized staff to depart from Moscow, the Associated Press reported, citing a statement from the U.S. State Department.

* The embassy closure comes as the world looked toward the peace talks in Belarus and the financial markets sought signs of a possible end to the conflict.

* Reuters reported on Monday that the talks had ended by 16:30 UTC and officials would now return to their respective capitals for further consultations before a second round of negotiations, citing the RIA news agency which quoted Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak.

* Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week, Russia has been hit with economic sanctions that have now seen the ruble tumble as much as 29%, leading to the Russian central bank raising its main interest rate to 20% on Monday.

* As with mainstream financial markets, cryptocurrency has felt the ripples of the hostilities in Eastern Europe, with bitcoin falling to a low of $34,636 last Thursday, a drop of more than 11% from the previous day.

* There has yet to be any significant movement in the crypto markets following news of talks commencing between the two countries.

Japan Sanctions Russia’s Central Bank, Belurusian President

Japan said Monday it would implement sanctions on Russia’s central bank as well as Belurusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida disclosed the latest round of sanctions after speaking by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Earlier Japan had said it would sanction some Russian banks and Russian individuals including President Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Kishida didn’t give details of the latest sanctions. Russia’s central bank said last year that about 10% of its foreign exchange and gold assets were located in Japan as of June 30, 2021.

Japan is sanctioning Belarusian entities and individuals including Mr. Lukashenko and restricting exports to the country because of the help it has given to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Mr. Kishida said. He said Mr. Zelensky thanked Japan for its support during their phone call.

Mr. Kishida said he would join President Biden and leaders of U.S. allies to discuss sanctions against Russia on a call scheduled for late Monday morning Washington time.

Ukraine Invasion Disrupts A Vital Tech Talent Pool

One in five Fortune 500 companies use Ukrainian IT services. Or at least, they did before Russia invaded.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has already had an impact on the energy and commodities markets. And there’s another major industry that will take a hit: tech.

So far, most of the focus has been on cyber security and semiconductor chips. Russia is a world leader in cyber warfare, sowing misinformation and weaponizing digital platforms.

And semiconductor bottlenecks could get worse as the Ukraine crisis deepens, with 90% of U.S. semiconductor-grade neon supplies coming from Ukraine, and 45% of the world’s palladium coming from Russia, while the Biden administration threatens a chip blockade of Russia — and adding to the uncertainties already roiling semiconductor markets.

But the impact on the tech industry will not stop there. That’s because pre-invasion Ukraine was also a valuable, growing hub for tech talent. Tech accounts for over 4% of Ukraine’s GDP; while this is much smaller than, say, India, where the share of tech in GDP is closer to 8%, it was growing fast.

The Ukrainian IT development sector exported $6.8 billion in IT services in 2021, and increased by 36% between 2020 and 2021. One in five Fortune 500 companies use Ukrainian IT services, among them Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Oracle, Snap and Ring, drawn in by the country’s minimal bureaucratic hurdles, favorable tax policies, and the professionalization of its tech sector.

While Ukrainian IT got its start as a low-cost offshoring destination, it has moved up to higher-end value-added work such as systems architecture, business analysis and experience design. It has English-speaking developers in time zones that are easier than Asian ones for companies in the U.S. and EU.

According to one count, the country is home to over 240,000 tech specialists and more than a hundred R&D centers for international companies. The country’s small but growing blessing of unicorns include ventures such as Gitlab and Grammarly.

Ukraine’s IT industry boasts an impressive collection of rankings on league tables that tech managers follow: first in Eastern Europe in outsourcing developers, first in all of Europe in terms of the number of graduates of technical high schools, fifth in a league table of the best software developers in the world, first globally by the number of Unity3D game developers and C++ engineers and second in JavaScript, Scala and Magento developers.

Now, the country’s dynamic tech clusters — in Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv and Dnipro — will all be compromised.

To limit the damage, several companies are trying to move their employees and contractors out of Ukraine, but unfortunately, this will have limited impact.

The Israeli software company Wix, for example, has evacuated employees to Poland and Turkey, but most tech workers will not have that luxury. The ability for many to move has already been affected by the current ban on military-aged men leaving the country.

Grammarly (which was founded in Ukraine) and San Francisco-based JustAnswer (with a third of its workforce in Ukraine) have moved their data out of the country and are now storing it in the U.S. Others have invested in backup diesel generators, laptops and internet service. Some are moving employees towards more remote parts of the country, away from the main thrusts of the invasion.

Western tech firms will find that without Ukraine, the worldwide tech talent shortage will get even worse. If high-end tech work needs to be moved to other locations, some alternate European cities could be Istanbul and Tallin — they are the closest to Ukrainian tech cities in terms of socio-economic characteristics.

Making a switch would be costly and difficult, but it is something companies will have to consider if the crisis drags on or if Putin is successful.

Ironically, one of the reasons Ukraine was a hotspot for tech talent was due to a legacy of Soviet-era emphasis on engineering and technology education. Now, Vladimir Putin has set back a digital economy that seemed to be on the verge of breaking out, a rising power in digital innovation with a growing consumer base for tech products.

The tragic reality for the people of Ukraine is already obvious; the grave consequences for the global economy are only beginning to unfold.

Swiss Ditch Historic Neutrality To Enforce Russia Sanctions

* Government Changes Policy After Weekend Of Debate, Criticism
* President Putin, Foreign Minister Lavrov Among Those Targeted

The Swiss government broke with a long-entrenched tradition of neutrality and agreed to enforce European Union sanctions against Russian companies and individuals including President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The government’s decision Monday to implement the sanctions with immediate effect — which prompted Lavrov to cancel a planned trip to Geneva — came after a weekend in which it was criticized by opposition politicians and in editorials in leading Swiss papers as well as by other governments.

The European Commission on Friday urged Switzerland to follow its lead on punishing the Kremlin, noting that although not an EU member state, it’s still “part of Europe.”

Swiss President Ignazio Cassis told reporters Monday that adopting the EU sanctions is not a black-and-white decision that precludes it playing a role as a neutral party in the future, but rather a case of choosing where to put the emphasis.

“Given the huge violation of international law that’s taken place in the last few days, the Swiss government has put an emphasis on the respect and protection of values that are the basis for our civilization,” Cassis said at a news conference in Bern.

It’s a bold departure for Switzerland, which has long played a neutral role in international affairs. It hosted a summit in June between Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden and then talks between Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign-policy chief, welcomed the move, saying it was “very, very good news.”

Earlier frustration with Switzerland stemmed from its decision to only block Swiss banks from opening new accounts for Russians sanctioned by the EU but not freeze existing ones.

Swiss banks had about $23 billion in Russian holdings in the third quarter of last year, mostly made up of deposits, according to data from the Bank for International Settlements.

Economics Minister Guy Parmelin told reporters on Friday that while he understood people might want the country to do more, the Swiss tradition of neutrality and diplomacy was decades-old and “respected and understood” in the EU.

Over the weekend, Cassis tweeted he had spoken to Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy to express his support and solidarity but stopped short of any mention of sanctions.

Then on Monday he convened a press conference to announce the new measures, which among other things will close Swiss airspace to all aircraft flying from Russia, including the private jets which have long whisked Russian oligarchs in and out of the country.

Travel bans on five oligarchs close to Putin were implemented, while visa-facilitation services for Russians in place since 2009 will also be scrapped, including for holders of diplomatic passports.

“This doesn’t prevent us from playing a diplomatic role,” Cassis said. “We will always need diplomacy. No conflict can be resolved without diplomacy.”

Updated: 3-1-2022

Ukraine Receives Starlink Satellite Internet Equipment From Elon Musk; Tracking-Related Security Concerns Remain

Ukraine has received equipment to use Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet service to back up the country’s communications capabilities while fighting against Russian invaders, according to Ukrainian digital transformation minister Mykhailo Federov.

The security of the technology from Mr. Musk’s SpaceX company will be tested if Ukrainians are forced to use it.

Starlink provides high-speed internet through connections to satellites in low-earth orbit.

Mr. Federov requested the Starlink equipment from Mr. Musk on Saturday, and the Ukrainian official said on Monday via Twitter that he received the equipment.

Mr. Federov thanked Mr. Musk for the equipment and shared an image of boxes in the back of a truck.

“You are most welcome,” Mr. Musk said in reply.

Concerns remain about whether the Russian government can exploit the satellite services to attack Ukrainians. John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab, expressed fear on Twitter that the Starlink services could become beacons for airstrikes.

“Now that Starlink devices are headed into an active conflict zone, though, *possible* risks are about to get battle tested,” Mr. Scott-Railton said on Twitter. “I hope that OPSEC is front of mind as decisions are made about terminal distribution, use & placement.”

Ukraine has already faced disruptive cyberattacks that have prompted it to relocate key information technology equipment. Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection said via Twitter on Monday that it moved IT infrastructure to new locations as some embassy websites recovered from cyberattacks.

Starlink is hardly the only technology that Ukraine’s enemies may use to track soldiers and citizens. For example, Google temporarily disabled live traffic data on Google Maps to protect people’s safety in Ukraine, according to Reuters.

The live traffic data uses location information to spotlight which roads are congested and which places are busy. As Russia advanced on Ukraine last week, people on Twitter discussed a “traffic jam” on the road from Russia to the Ukrainian border.

Internet connectivity has proven critical to getting information into and out of Ukraine. Mr. Federov has also encouraged technology companies to get involved against Russia and urged Apple and Spotify to block the accounts of Russian artists who support the war.

 

Can Russia’s Sanctions Pain Be China’s Gain?

Concerted Western action has set a tough precedent for any potential future crisis in the Taiwan Strait

What does the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and the surprisingly strong Western response look like from Beijing? Potentially a boon over the long run on the energy front, but deeply worrying financially.

Budding Sino-Russian entente aside, a full-out attempt to dilute Western sanctions in Russia’s favor is unlikely because of the risk to China’s own technology and financial champions. Beijing will intensify efforts to insulate itself from the possibility of similarly united sanctions down the road, but it will continue to be hindered by the desire to maintain a high degree of control over the yuan.

The consequences of the crisis for global energy flows were metastasizing even before the invasion of Ukraine: In early February during the Olympics, China and Russia agreed on a new “Power of Siberia 2” pipeline that would raise planned pipeline gas deliveries to China to a total of around 48 billion cubic meters by the second half of the decade.

The agreement stipulates payment in euros, but that presumably could be changed to yuan if Russia’s financial isolation called for it—an additional plus from Beijing’s perspective.

And, while Bloomberg has reported that some Chinese banks are skittish about financing Russian resource trading for fear of violating Western sanctions, it still seems likely that the rules will continue to include carve-outs for Russian energy transactions to reduce the overall impact on the global economy.

The key point is that, even assuming continued very strong demand growth, China is still very far from being a replacement for the European natural gas market. Russia piped 168 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe in 2020, according to data from BP, or about 70% of its total natural gas exports.

Last year China imported only 16.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia in total. Even assuming pipeline volumes reach around 50 billion cubic meters by mid-decade, as planned, a major effort by Europe to diversify away from Russian gas would risk putting a permanent, significant discount on Russian gas—a fact that China would no doubt be happy to take advantage of in the future.

The situation with technology sanctions is less straightforward but could end up unfolding in a similar manner. In the short run, Chinese companies seem unlikely to risk Western and Japanese secondary sanctions by continuing to supply Russian customers.

In the long run, though, if China is able to successfully localize its entire semiconductor production chain, even at a less cutting-edge technological level—still a very uncertain prospect—a captive Russian market would be another welcome source of capital.

For China, the most alarming aspect of the crisis is probably its financial implications. The joint decision by the European Union, the U.S., the U.K., Japan and Canada to sanction Russia’s central bank—pummeling the ruble and freezing access to many of the foreign assets the Central Bank of Russia would need to defend it—sets a very tough precedent for any potential future crisis in the Taiwan Strait.

While China has in recent years declined to add to its roughly one trillion dollars in U.S. Treasury holdings, its ability to fight yuan depreciation in any theoretical Taiwan confrontation would be significantly impaired if it struggled to sell most of its hard currency assets, not just its dollar-denominated ones.

All of this will immediately further incentivize China—and other countries that fear financial isolation—to boost the payments and reserve role of the yuan.

China is likely to increase the pressure on its trade and financial partners to do business in yuan using its own homegrown alternative to the global financial messaging system SWIFT. Foreign central bank holdings of yuan denominated reserve assets, currently tiny at 2.7% of global reserves in late 2021 according to the International Monetary Fund, will likely grow.

But the problem is that China’s currency still isn’t fully convertible even in normal times, much less in a geopolitical crisis of the sort unfolding now. China’s central bank regularly intervenes in both the onshore currency market and the offshore one in Hong Kong when they move in ways it doesn’t like.

Yuan deposits held onshore are in many cases subject to both quantitative and qualitative controls in terms of how much can be converted and how the proceeds can be legally used. Those rules also tend to shift when overall capital outflows or inflows change rapidly.

That will continue to put a relatively low ceiling on global demand for yuan relative to the size of China’s economy. And for now, the macroeconomic risks of removing China’s capital controls—particularly for the heavily indebted-real estate and state sectors—still probably outweigh the geopolitical impetus to push the yuan’s adoption abroad.

Beijing will accrue some advantages in the energy and, potentially, technological realms over the long term from the current crisis. But by acting in concert, the owners of all the major reserve currencies have sent a very strong signal about the consequences of direct aggression against a neighbor by a major power while showing the limited advantages of diversification. The search for financial workarounds will intensify, but viable alternatives still look scarce.

This week has been an unhappy wake-up call for Beijing.

More Organizations Are Cutting Ties With Russia. Here’s A Running List

With war raging in Ukraine, sports and entertainment organizations are increasingly cutting ties with Russia.

Following the Feb. 24 invasion, the International Olympic Committee urged all sports organizations to move or cancel events in Russia and Belarus. Since then, cultural institutions like the Motion Picture Association have followed suit.

Here is a running list of what’s been canceled, postponed and moved.

Film Studios

Walt Disney Co., Sony Corp., Universal Studios and AT&T Inc.’s WarnerMedia have paused the theatrical release of films in Russia including Pixar’s “Turning Red,” Sony’s “Morbius,” Universal’s “Ambulance” and Warner Bros.’ “The Batman.” Paramount Pictures said it would delay the Russian debuts of its films “The Lost City” and “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.”

In a statement, Disney said, “We will make future business decisions based on the evolving situation. In the meantime, given the scale of the emerging refugee crisis, we are working with our NGO partners to provide urgent aid and other humanitarian assistance to refugees.”

Cannes Film Festival is blocking Russian delegations from attending festivities in May.

Television

The Eurovision Song Contest, the international songwriting competition that drew 183 million viewers last year, announced it is barring Russian acts from participating. “In light of the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine, the inclusion of a Russian entry would bring the competition into disrepute,” the European Broadcasting Union said in a tweet.

The National Association of Television Programming Executives known as NATPE has banned Russian companies from participating in its international television sales market this June where programming can be bought and sold.

The National Association of Broadcasters urged U.S. companies to drop Russian state-owned media. DirecTV is terminating RT’s contract. Netflix Inc. said it won’t carry Russian news channels on its streaming platform, defying a regulation that requires it to do so.

Live Performances

On Feb. 25, New York’s Carnegie Hall replaced Russian conductor Valery Gergie and pianist Denis Matsuev in a performance with the Vienna Philharmonic. Both artists had previously signed an open letter supporting Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Gergie has since been fired as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic over his refusal to denounce Russian President Vladimir Putin.

New York’s Metropolitan Opera said in a statement on its website that it can no longer engage with artists or institutions that support Putin or that are supported by him until the invasion of Ukraine stops.

Bands including Green Day, Iggy Pop, Franz Ferdinand and AJR have canceled their upcoming concert dates in Moscow and other Russian cities.

In the U.K., the Royal Opera House has canceled summer performances of the Bolshoi Ballet.

Soccer

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, owner of the English Premier League team Chelsea FC, has been active in brokering peace in the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, according to the Jerusalem Post. Amid potential sanctions due to his relationship with Putin, he handed stewardship of the team to trustees on Feb. 26.

The European football governing body, UEFA, said it is moving its May 28 Champions League finals from Saint Petersburg to Paris “following the grave escalation of the security situation in Europe.” English Premier League team Manchester United has withdrawn sponsorship rights for Russian airline Aeroflot in light of the events in Ukraine, it said in a statement on its website.

FIFA has banned Russia from competing in the World Cup qualifiers.

Hockey

The National Hockey League is suspending its relationships with business partners in Russia, pausing Russian-language social and digital media sites, and discontinuing any consideration of Russia as a location for any future NHL competitions, according to a statement on its website.

Auto Racing

FIA, the governing body for Formula 1, has ruled that Russian drivers like Haas’ Nikita Mazepin can continue to race, but only under a neutral flag. Following IOC guidance, Russia is now banned from participating in all international auto racing events. The Russian Grand Prix scheduled for Sept. 23 has been canceled.

Mazepin’s father is a Russian billionaire who is a majority shareholder in Urakali, a sponsor of the team. Sponsor decals have been removed from the Haas race car.

Tennis

Russian Tennis Federation and Belarus Tennis Federation have been suspended for all international tennis events. Russian tennis players like Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev can continue to play but only under a neutral flag. Rublev protested Russia’s invasion by writing “No War Please” on a TV camera at the Dubai Championships. The ATP Challenger tournament which was scheduled to be held in Moscow on Feb 28 has been canceled.

Figure Skating

The International Skating Union has barred Russian athletes from competing. This opens the possibility of Olympians Anna Shcherbakova, and Kamila Valieva falling out of the world rankings.

Skiing

The International Ski Federation said the six World Cup events scheduled to take place in Russia are in the process of being moved to another location “in the interest of the safety of all participants and to maintain the integrity of the World Cup.”

Martial Arts

The International Judo Federation dropped Putin as honorary president and World Taekwondo has stripped him of his honorary black belt.

Paralympics

Team USA is demanding a complete ban of Russia and Belarus from the Paralympics, which begin March 4 in Beijing.

Putin Isn’t Alone In His Imperial Fantasies

Leaders of the other former land-based Eurasian empires China, Turkey and Iran have also decided that the best way to shore up their legitimacy is to appeal to past glories.

Assaulting Ukraine in an apparent attempt to resurrect the long-vanished Russian empire, President Vladimir Putin may seem singularly delusional. But his imperialist fantasies are by no means unique or exceptional.

In each of the great Eurasian land-based empires of the past — Russia, China, Iran, Turkey — ruling elites have for some time now been seeking to redraw national identity along quasi-imperial lines. More recently, the United Kingdom, the greatest naval empire of the 19th century, succumbed to a fantasy of resurrected global power in cutting itself off from the European Union.

Indeed, as the two main political and economic systems consolidated in the 20th century — the nation-state and U.S.-led global capitalism — begin to crack, the specter of empire is haunting much of the world. And severe disruptions, confusions and disorder are becoming the rule rather than the exception.

Leaders of these former empires justify their embrace of neo-imperialism with reference to material interests: Putin invokes Russia’s security, Brexiteers point to better trading opportunities for “Global Britain.” But what they seek above all is fresh legitimacy in the eyes of their citizens.

This involves radically severing past allegiances. The Tory Party’s nihilistic attack on metropolitan “elites” and “experts,” and Putin’s scorn for the glasnost-era leaders who dismantled the Soviet Union (of which he was once an apparatchik), are part of a larger reconstruction by ruling classes of their ideological basis as the previous world order crumbles.

The first of these remarkable turnarounds occurred in Iran. The country’s Islamist regime has emphasized Shia values and symbols for most of its 40 decades in power.

In more recent years, the theocrats in Tehran have promoted Iran’s pre-Islamic and imperialist Persian past, dispatching their spies and proxies to recreate the old Persian zone of influence from the Gulf of Oman through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Helped by reckless adventurers in Washington, D.C. demanding regime change in Tehran and the grim reality of hopelessly fragmented Arab neighbors such as Syria, Iran’s rulers have successfully reconfigured Iranian nationalism and extended their hold on power.

Simultaneously, neo-Ottomanism has emerged as the refurbished ideology of Turkey, with long-serving President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claiming the mantle of the most successful and famous Ottoman sultans. Helped by mass media and its own propaganda organs, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party has managed to fuse traditional Islamic iconography with potent historical symbols of the Ottoman Empire.

The most consequential ideological shift has occurred in China, where President Xi Jinping has reversed a longstanding official scorn for the Qing Dynasty — the weakened empire that, in the eyes of Mao Zedong and his peers, exposed their country to a century of humiliation by the West.

In China’s new master narrative, Xi is expanding China’s influence globally through trading and transport networks while protecting, close to home, the territorial gains achieved by such wise imperialists as the Qing emperor Qianlong.

Last year at Qianlong’s favorite imperial retreat in the hills north of Beijing, Xi visited a new exhibition that celebrated the emperor as a proto-nation-builder who “improved the Qing central government’s management of Tibet, quelled multiple bouts of conflict by separatists in Xinjiang and further unified this multi-ethnic country.”

A few weeks later, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) issued a revised summation of its history that canonized Xi as one of the country’s “core” thinkers-cum-stewards. Before Xi arrived on the scene in 2012, the CCP now argues, China had little “capacity to safeguard its national security.” Corruption was spreading fast among cadres and “some party members and officials experienced grave crises in their political faith.”

This document may seem very specifically Chinese. Yet the loss of political faith is a global phenomenon. The ability of the old nation-state to deliver political and social stability, and of free markets to bring universal prosperity, have never seemed more in doubt.

Whether in autocracies or democracies such as the U.K., the neo-imperialisms of our time represent an attempt to fill an enormous and ever-deepening ideological vacuum.

Fear of losing control, credibility and authority weighs heavily on the minds of those who presided over and benefited from compromised political and economic systems — whether the Tories or Putin, both not coincidentally oligarch-friendly. The same people now feverishly tout images of an idealized imperial past in which external dangers and challenges were resolutely met by sovereign power, borders were stable and minorities were kept under control.

There is no doubt that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will join the long list of disasters unleashed by imperialist ambitions. Nevertheless, what matters to Putin and other seemingly reckless neo-imperialists is their own short-term survival.

Driven by existential fears, they are becoming more intransigent as they take to heart the lesson offered by the CCP’s flattering resolution on Xi: “Constant retreat will only bring bullying from those who grab a yard if you give an inch.”

However irrational and self-defeating it might seem today, Putin-style bellicosity will almost certainly become more routine as an old and decrepit world order crumbles. Some treacherous years lie ahead.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry Decides Where Crypto Funds Are Spent

The government’s crypto fund has received donations worth $16.8 million.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry is deciding on the allocation of donated crypto funds, said Michael Chobanian, the founder of Ukrainian exchange Kuna who is leading the crypto effort for the country.

Chobanian spoke to CoinDesk shortly after tweeting details of how Ukraine’s crypto fund had received cryptocurrency worth $16.8 million in support from donors worldwide.

“14 million USD of the 16.8 million USD has already been spent,” said Chobanian.

The spending was revealed on the same day a Russian rocket attack killed 70 Ukrainian soldiers, and satellite images showed a 40 mile (64 km) Russian military convoy only 17 miles away from and still approaching Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy received a standing ovation after a video address to the European Parliament.

The Ukraine government has not revealed where the funds are getting spent “due to a level of secrecy involved” but insisted that it is transparent thanks to blockchain technology.

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov is aware of how the funds are being allocated because he is the one giving the orders, according to a person familiar with the process. Details will have to be revealed by the government, the person said.

CoinDesk earlier reported how the Ukrainian government is purchasing critical supplies, including gas, food and military equipment, using cryptocurrency donations.

 

EU Agrees To Move To Next Step In Ukraine’s Membership Bid

* The Decision Is Mostly Symbolic And The Process Remains Long
* Ambassadors Want An Early Opinion From Executive Arm

European Union ambassadors agreed on Tuesday to call for an initial assessment of Ukraine’s chances of joining the 27-nation bloc.

The envoys will ask the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, to look into the possibility, according to officials who declined to be identified speaking on a confidential issue. EU leaders are expected to discuss Ukraine’s prospects at a summit in Paris on March 10-11, the officials said.

The move follows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy formally putting in a bid on Monday. Membership requires an arduous set of steps that can last more than a decade.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told EU lawmakers in Brussels on Tuesday that she spoke to Zelenskiy about membership and that “there is still a long path ahead,” adding that nobody “can doubt that a people that stand up so bravely for our European values belong in our European family.”

Lobbying Effort

Ukraine has already received strong support from some member states. In an open letter to the EU, the leaders of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia called for an immediate accession path to be opened for Ukraine. And on Tuesday Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki traveled to Brussels to lobby von der Leyen on the issue.

Zelenskiy’s appeal risks antagonizing Russian President Vladimir Putin as it highlights his strong push to align Ukraine with Europe and the western alliance.

But the process isn’t a short one. Croatia was the last country to join the bloc and its application process lasted 10 years before it was formally accepted in 2013.

For Ukraine, once the ambassadors make their request for an initial assessment, it will be up to the commission to determine if the country is ready to start the accession process. After that, the commission will present its view to EU member states, who have to make the final decision on moving forward.

Accession requires the candidate country to adopt established EU law as well as to enact reforms — including to its judicial and economic systems — to meet the bloc’s criteria.

Fast-Track Procedure

More than 30 policy areas are examined and negotiated to make sure the nation is prepared to join — and moving on to the next so-called chapter requires the consent of all member states. The move also requires the unanimous approval of all EU members, the European Commission and the European Parliament.

Since the situation in Ukraine is dramatic, the EU could agree to speed up the procedure, according to another official, who asked not to be identified because the process is private. But there is little chance of the bloc granting membership to Ukraine soon, the official added. The European Council, which oversees accession procedures, could ask for an urgent opinion from the commission, another official said. That usually takes between 15 and 18 months, the official added.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Monday after talks with her Slovenian counterpart in Berlin that “the EU has always been a house with open doors” and “Ukraine is a part of the European house.” She added that “accession is not something that can be completed in a few months, but involves an intensive and far-reaching process of transformation.”

A move to fast-track the process risks angering countries that are also pushing for membership. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday expressed respect for the efforts to admit Ukraine to the EU, but added that the bloc shouldn’t wait for the bombing of Turkey to admit his country as well.

Visa And Mastercard Cut Services To Russian Banks

The firms are working to comply with international sanctions against Russia and humanitarian donation efforts in Ukraine.

Visa and Mastercard announced they are stopping services to Russian banks in an effort to comply with U.S. sanctions imposed on the country after the Ukraine invasion.

The sanctions are intended to block Russia’s government from accessing the global financial system. The financial restrictions have included freezing assets at Russia’s Central Bank. Other Russian banks have also been impacted by the sanctions, including state-owned VTB.

The international sanctions have also prohibited U.S. citizens from participating in transactions with Russia’s Central Bank, the National Wealth Fund, and the Russia Ministry of Finance.

On Monday, Mastercard issued a statement that said it has “blocked multiple financial institutions from the Mastercard payment network.” It added that it will continue to work with regulators to comply with requirements “as they evolve.”

Similarly, on Monday, Visa said it is working to comply with the sanctions.

“Visa is taking prompt action to ensure compliance with applicable sanctions and is prepared to comply with additional sanctions that may be implemented,” Visa said in the statement.

The sanctions have directly impacted the lives of everyday Russians, who should only expect the economic situation to get worse in the next few weeks and months.

On Monday, the Russian ruble dropped about 30% in value against the U.S. dollar. It saw some rebound in value after Russia’s central bank moved to increase its key interest rate to 20% — more than double its previous rate. However, economists forecast that the sanctions will diminish Russia’s economic growth for the foreseeable future.

“Russian financial markets are under heavy pressure from the West’s sanctions, which will damage Russia’s GDP significantly,” said Adam Slater, lead economist at Oxford Economics. He expects the sanctions to reduce the Russian GDP by as much as 6%.

According to the statements, both Visa and Mastercard are donating $2 million each toward the war-time humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.

Russia Bans Coupon Payment To Foreigners On $29 Billion In Bonds

* Move Aims To Support Financial Stability, Central Bank Says
* Russia Has Introduced Capital Controls To Counter Sanctions

The Russian central bank has banned coupon payments to foreign owners of ruble bonds known as OFZs in what it called a temporary step to shore up markets in the wake of international sanctions.

The Bank of Russia issued the instruction to depositaries and registries as part of a raft of measures announced this week that included a freeze on local security sales by foreigners. It could leave foreign investors who held almost 3 trillion rubles ($29 billion) in the debt at the start of February unable to collect income on their holdings, which are already blocked from sale by restrictions.

The next coupon payment on OFZ bonds is due tomorrow on notes maturing in 2024, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Game over? I think they underestimated how far sanctions will go and now don’t have much left to do,” said Viktor Szabo, a fund manager at Aberdeen Asset Management in London. “All Russian markets have fallen apart.”

The central bank didn’t specify how long the ban will last. On Monday, the Interfax news service reported the temporary suspension will be in effect for half a year unless the regulator lifts it ahead of time. The decision underscored how rapidly Russia’s free-market credentials have disintegrated since the Ukraine invasion.

Cut Off

“Issuers have the right to make decisions on the payment of dividends and the making of other payments on securities and transfer them to the accounting system,” the central bank said in an emailed reply to questions. “However, the payments themselves will not be made by depositories and registrars to foreign clients. This also applies to OFZ.”

The world’s biggest settlement systems Euroclear and Clearsteam are no longer handling Russian assets — reversing the much-heralded opening of the local debt market to international investors nine years ago.

The fact that foreign investors no longer needed to go through local brokerages to trade Russian ruble bonds helped drive down the nation’s borrowing costs and pushed the share of foreign investors higher. Their proportion reached 19.1% as of Feb. 1.

While Russia’s National Settlement Depository hasn’t blocked the accounts of Euroclear and Clearstream, it’s limiting the ability to make payments on securities from Russian issuers to foreign individuals and legal entities in line with the central bank’s request, the Moscow Exchange said by email. Separately, the cental bank said stocks trading would be closed for a third day on Wednesday.

Last week, OFZ yields soared almost two and half percentage points as President Vladimir Putin first recognized two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine and then launched a military attack on the rest of the country.

Even before the invasion, Russia had halted local bond auctions as geopolitical tensions mounted. Trading in the Russian government’s ruble debt has yet to reopen.

The decision by the central bank was taken to “avoid mass sales of Russian securities, the withdrawal of funds from the Russian financial market and to support financial stability,” it said.

With as much as half of its foreign reserves frozen abroad by sanctions aimed at punishing the Kremlin for invading Ukraine, the Bank of Russia said Monday it would harden capital controls with a ban on transferring foreign currency abroad. While initially it clarified that the step wasn’t aimed at stopping the servicing of debt, some investors and economists said the phrasing of the decree could amount to a default.

“I haven’t seen this before,” said Paul McNamara, a portfolio manager at GAM Investments. “It really doesn’t bode well for investors holding FX-denominated bonds.”

‘Technical Default’

“This will likely be a technical default, we’ll see how long it goes on for,” said Nick Eisinger, co-head of emerging-markets active fixed income at Vanguard Asset Management in London. “We also see strong likelihood of technical default on Eurobonds at the sovereign level.”

Sovereign ruble bonds collapsed last week, sending the yield on the 10-year benchmark up 240 basis points to 12.28%. The ruble’s drop of more than 20% so far this year is the worst slump globally, prices compiled by Bloomberg show.

“A potentially weaker willingness on the part of the Russian government to service its debt on time and in full, raise the probability of more severe credit outcomes for foreign holders of Russian debt securities,” Moody’s Investors Service said in an statement.

Updated: 3-1-2022

China Holds Talks With Ukraine, Further Edging Away From Russia

* China’s Wang Yi Speaks On Phone With Ukrainian Counterpart
* China ‘Deplores’ Outbreak Of Conflict, Calls For Resolution

China is “extremely concerned” about the harm to civilians in Ukraine, Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Ukrainian counterpart in a call, in the latest indication of Beijing’s desire to prevent the war’s further escalation.

Wang said the world’s second largest economy also “deplores the outbreak of conflict between Ukraine and Russia,” according to a statement posted on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

The remarks were published after a call between Wang and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, the most senior exchange since Russia’s Vladimir Putin launched the invasion Thursday.

Wang also acknowledged the conflict was a “war,” rather than a “special military operation” as described by Russia. Kuleba said Ukraine was willing to strengthen communication with China and that it looked forward to China’s “mediation for the realization of the ceasefire,” according to the statement.

“This is a very important event and signals the very high attention that the Chinese government is paying to the Ukraine crisis,” said Henry Wang Huiyao, founder of the Center for China & Globalization policy research group in Beijing. “If both Ukraine and Russia invite China to be a mediator, then China would probably join.”

The war is testing Chinese President Xi Jinping’s commitment last month to a “no limits” relationship with Putin, as the U.S. and its allies pile on sanctions and press Beijing to take as stand against military aggression.

In recent days, Xi has urged Putin to pursue negotiations and China’s United Nations ambassador abstained from, rather than opposing, a Security Council resolution condemning the attack.

The call between Wang Yi and Kuleba came as convoys of Russian military vehicles bore down on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and other major cities, prompting warnings that Moscow could unleash a mass bombardment on population centers.

Still, China has refrained from publicly calling for a ceasefire or describing the war as an “invasion,” and thus a violation of the UN-guaranteed sovereignty Beijing frequently vows to uphold. China hasn’t criticized Russia, and continues to voice support its security concerns and blame the U.S. for precipitating the crisis.

China boasts deep economic ties with Ukraine, and Wang Yi expressed concern over the safety of Chinese citizens there, estimated at 6,000 when the invasion began. Beijing’s support is seen as essential to Moscow’s efforts to weather international sanctions, which are cutting if off from huge swaths of the world’s trade, finance and travel.

Some 2,500 Chinese nationals have been relocated from Ukraine as of midday Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular press briefing in Beijing. He sidestepped a question on whether Xi would speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, saying only that Beijing’s communication links with Kyiv were open.

During the call, Wang Yi said China always upholds respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, and called on Ukraine and Russia to “find a solution to the issue through negotiations,” according to the statement. China supports all constructive international effort conducive to “political settlement,” he added.

“As the war continues to expand, the top priority is to ease the situation to prevent the conflict from escalating or even getting out of control, especially to prevent harm to civilians, and to ensure the safe and timely access of humanitarian aid,” the Chinese foreign minister said.

Did Xi Jinping Get Played By Putin On Ukraine?

From the awkward public discourse to its failure to evacuate citizens in danger, all signs point to the likelihood that Beijing was kept in the dark about the invasion.

If the “no limits” partnership announced between China and Russia on the eve of the Winter Olympics amounted to a blueprint for a new world order, it’s already looking a little frayed around the edges. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has left Beijing struggling to straddle a line between its cardinal foreign-policy principle of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and support for an ally. That discomfort has set off a flurry of speculation over what China knew about President Vladimir Putin’s intentions.

Whatever the conclusion, it doesn’t look flattering for Chinese President Xi Jinping. Russia’s aggression has led to international isolation, galvanized a united front of opposition across Europe, the U.S. and beyond, and sent ripples through financial markets. Even a pro-Russian autocratic leader such as Hungary’s Viktor Orban has agreed to back sanctions against Moscow.

Was Beijing aware of Putin’s plans and went ahead with its pact with Russia regardless, hitching itself to a country that was about to turn into a pariah?

The alternative explanation is that Putin kept his hand hidden. If that’s the case, it hardly helps to burnish Xi’s reputation as a master strategist steering China’s path back to greatness, in a year when he will seek a precedent breaking third leadership term.

The balance of the evidence points to China being unaware of what was about to unfold. There has been the awkward dissonance of its public response, reasserting respect for state sovereignty while repeatedly refusing to criticize Russia or refer to the Ukraine operation as an invasion. China abstained on a United Nations resolution condemning the Russian action, in what some interpreted as showing a lack of support for its geopolitical partner.

Barely three weeks after Xi affirmed the two countries’ “deepening strategic coordination of mutual support and standing shoulder to shoulder for international fairness and justice,” it turns out there are limits to the friendship after all.

Chinese policy advisers were clearly taken by surprise. Shen Yi, a professor at Fudan University, held a conference call titled “A War That Would Not Be Fought” with brokerage clients prior to the invasion.

The U.S. was talking up war to destabilize Europe and benefit American industries, Renmin University’s Jin Canrong, who is also a visiting professor at the University of Michigan’s Gerald Ford School of Public Policy, told China’s state broadcaster.

Not “a single Chinese policy wonk bought the idea” that Russia would invade, Yun Sun, a senior fellow and director of the China program at the Washington-based Stimson Center, wrote Monday.

While some diplomatic dissimulation is possible and academics can get things wrong, there are more tangible reasons to believe that Beijing didn’t know an invasion was coming.

For one thing, there was the failure to prepare any evacuation plan for Chinese residents in Ukraine and then the embassy’s conflicting messages — telling people to display Chinese flags on their cars before rescinding that advice two days later. It is “unthinkable that Beijing knew but did not bother to prepare,” as the Stimson Center’s Sun observed.

Beyond this, there is the fact that U.S. officials presented intelligence to their Chinese counterparts showing the troop buildup near Ukraine’s borders and pleaded with them to use their influence to persuade Russia not to invade. Instead, Chinese officials shared the information with Moscow.

That decision hints at a key reason why Beijing miscalculated so badly. The China-Russia rapprochement is driven by a shared mistrust of the U.S., and a deeply ingrained perception that the existing international order is a vehicle for Washington to exercise dominance over other nations.

The two countries’ Feb. 4 joint statement explicitly opposed enlargement of NATO (a key bone of contention for Putin in his targeting of Ukraine) and called on the alliance to “respect the sovereignty, security and interests of other countries.”

U.S. intentions are, by definition, to be regarded with suspicion; the possibility that the American warnings might be true, and that Putin might be a malign and irrational actor planning to violate the security of another sovereign nation doesn’t appear to have entered into consideration.

The strength of the backlash to the Ukraine invasion should give Beijing pause. The oil, gas and wheat that may flow from its closer relationship with Russia could never compensate for any similar ostracism from the international system, membership of which has benefited China’s economy mightily.

And for all the existing system’s imperfections, would an alternative architecture in which Putin’s Russia is a principal partner provide the order and security that China has sought?

Popular notions that liberal democracy is decadent and in decline might also merit some re-examination. Europe’s democracies have recovered a clarity and unity of purpose that was difficult to imagine before this crisis, and with a speed that China has often held out as being an advantage of its one-party system.

There are some growing signs of ambivalence within China. Foreign Minister Wang Yi has edged closer to criticism of Russia, saying Tuesday that China “deplored” the conflict and is extremely concerned about the harm to civilians.

Some commentary sympathetic to Ukraine has been allowed to circulate among the pro-Russian voices on China’s heavily controlled internet, though an open letter by five historians denouncing Moscow’s actions was quickly removed. China won’t repudiate its alliance with Russia, but the inability to anticipate the Ukraine invasion is an unambiguous failure. It deserves to prompt a reassessment on multiple fronts — from the top down.

World Central Kitchen Cooks Up Compassion In War-Torn Ukraine

“There are many ways to fight. Some people fight making sure people are fed,” says founder José Andrés.

As the war in Ukraine intensifies, World Central Kitchen is expanding its efforts to feed thousands of fleeing refugees.

Within hours of Russia’s invasion on Feb. 25, the nonprofit disaster-relief organization co-founded by chef José Andrés started dishing out food. World Central Kitchen has now established kitchens at eight of Ukraine’s border crossings with Poland, and has created meal distribution centers in six countries including Romania and Hungary.

In Poland alone, says Director of Communications Strategy Lisa Abrego, WCK has served more than 37,000 hot meals including chicken and rice and pasta; the total was nearing 45,000 late on Tuesday. Everyone from fire fighters to nuns has pitched in to help cook and serve food.

“There are many ways to fight. Some people fight making sure people are fed,” said Andrés via email. “Those are our people, and we will be supporting them.” The chef was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 and has pledged a portion of his $100 million award from Jeff Bezos to address the current crisis.

Inside Ukraine, WCK has partnered with local restaurants to feed people who have chosen not to flee. The organization will expand its work in the country as more shelters are established.

“We anticipate this becoming one of our largest emergency responses to date,” says Abrego. Following Hurricane Maria’s strike on Puerto Rico in 2017, WCK served 3 million meals, about 75% of them hot, across the island. Rather than cold meals or MREs (meals ready to eat), the organization focuses on the dignity inherent in eating a home-cooked meal—and taking immediate action.

Bitcoin Price Jumps As Demand In Ukraine And Russia Booms

The cryptocurrency has been trading at a premium against the Ukrainian hryvnia.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has driven demand for cryptocurrencies in both countries, helping boost the price of bitcoin.

Bitcoin has been trading at a premium against the Ukrainian hryvnia on a number of exchanges, both globally and locally, a sign of high demand. On Binance, the largest exchange in the world, bitcoin was trading for the equivalent of $45,894 in hryvnia terms. On Kuna, the largest exchange in Ukraine, it was at $46,847, and had traded as high as $51,240.

In U.S. markets, bitcoin was recently trading near $44,000 Tuesday night, up more than 17% since Sunday evening, according to data from CoinDesk.

On Binance, there has been a surge in trading volume of bitcoin in exchange for rubles since just before Russia’s invasion began. Between Feb. 20 and 28, about 1,792 bitcoins exchanged hands in the ruble/bitcoin trading pair, compared with only 522 in the nine days before that, according to data on Binance.

Western sanctions have effectively cut Russia off from the global financial network, and Ukraine has imposed strict capital controls.

Crypto is popular in Ukraine and Russia. Ukraine ranked fourth on a global adoption index created by analytics firm Chainalysis. A Russian government report estimates that there were more than 12 million cryptocurrency wallets held by Russian citizens with about 2 trillion rubles, equivalent to about $20 billion.

“The situation in Ukraine has brought to light the value of bitcoin as an alternative monetary network,” said Timo Lehes, the co-founder of trading platform Swarm Markets.

A demand-driven rally specific to bitcoin is a break from its recent pattern, which has been to trade in line with risk assets like tech stocks.

Bitcoin’s rally this week wiped away losses for February. Most other cryptocurrencies were higher as well. Ether was up 4.7%. XRP was up 0.7%. Avalanche was up 3.3%, and Cardano was up 0.9%.

On Tuesday, the tech heavy Nasdaq Composite Index fell 1.2%.

Because bitcoin trades 24-hours a day, in some cases it has been leading risk assets, not just following.

Last Wednesday, when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his invasion of Ukraine, U.S. equities markets were closed. Bitcoin fell about 6% overnight, then rallied 13%. On Thursday, U.S. stocks closed slightly higher after a day of wild trading.

Bitcoin dropped almost 9% from the afternoon of Friday, Feb. 18, through the evening of Monday, Feb. 21, amid news of the worsening crisis in Ukraine. U.S. stock markets, closed on Monday for a holiday, didn’t get a chance to react to the news until Tuesday. When they did, the major indexes all lost more than 1%.

Attention has also fallen on cryptocurrencies for their potential to be an outlet for Russians trying to get around sanctions. While cryptocurrencies themselves haven’t been part of the sanctions, the White House has been considering adding them.

On Twitter on Sunday morning, Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice prime minister requested cryptocurrency exchanges block Russian accounts. “It’s crucial to freeze not only the addresses linked to Russian and Belarusian politicians, but also to sabotage ordinary users.”

Ukraine’s Mr. Fedorov didn’t make clear if the request was personal or one on behalf of the government. An attempt to reach him wasn’t successful.

Crypto exchanges largely demurred from enacting any voluntary restrictions in Russia.

Binance said it would not be doing a blanket ban but that it was taking action against those sanctioned by Western countries. Exchanges Coinbase, Kraken and KuCoin also said they wouldn’t be freezing Russian accounts without sanctions or legal requirements to do so.

“We try our best to protect human rights and asset security,” said KuCoin’s Chief Executive Johnny Lyu. “Actions that increase the tension to impact the rights of innocent people should not be encouraged.”

Crypto exchanges regularly comply with court orders and legal requests for data on its users, the same as regulated banks. There was no hint that the Ukrainian government, either alone or in concert, was going to take legal steps to require blocking Russian users.

On the technical side, exchanges have improved their infrastructure over the past several years and would be able to implement these sanctions if required, said Jack McDonald, the chief executive of PolySign, which makes crypto-assets storage software for exchanges and other custodians.

The exchanges have the ability to monitor accounts and transactions, and even know where the deposits are coming from. Funds from known hacks, for example, can and are blacklisted.

“It’s going to prove to be hard for Russia to evade sanctions using bitcoin,” Mr. McDonald said.

Even so, blocked users would still be able to find unregulated exchanges or even more opaque marketplaces for buying and selling their cryptocurrencies.

Part of Western sanctions included cutting Russia off from the Swift network, a bank-owned consortium that handles millions of daily payment instructions.

Western sanctions and restrictions are “bolstering the argument for blockchain products that will compete with the SWIFT network,” said Oanda analyst Edward Moya.

Investors are buying now, he said, in anticipation of an investment wave predicated on building those products.

Crypto Isn’t The Sanctions Haven Its Jump Suggests

The price of Bitcoin is up, but it’s not primarily because of a flood of illicit funds into the digital currency.

The price of Bitcoin surged on Tuesday for a second consecutive day, despite the selloff in other risk assets, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine buoys cryptocurrency transactions in those countries, partially in response to the sweeping sanctions from the U.S. and other world powers. So are markets essentially cheering the dodging of sanctions? Is good news for crypto actually bad news for the world?

It’s not as simple as that. Ruble-denominated crypto trading pairs have jumped since the U.S. announced its first sanctions on Russia on Feb. 22, according to research firm Chainalysis. As the researchers wrote on Twitter, it’s possible some of that may represent illicit funds.

Hryvnia-based crypto trading also jumped initially, although the increased volume has been less persistent. According to Chainalysis, the volumes “could also be driven by individuals in both countries reacting to the recent devaluation of the ruble and hryvnia and attempting to preserve their savings.” Bitcoin has climbed about 11% since Friday, and Ether is up 8% even as stocks and other risk assets have slipped.

Ukraine and Russia are ranked No. 4 and No. 18 in Chainalysis’s Global Crypto Adoption Index, and in that sense, it’s understandable for their residents to stash their money in crypto amid the mayhem. The hryvnia isn’t falling as much as the ruble, but it is getting hit.

Crypto may be a decent option for some Ukrainians; the last thing they need is for their savings to be depreciated away as Vladimir Putin wages a bloody invasion of their country. Perhaps that’s a victory for crypto innovation.

But if crypto is being used to dodge sanctions — and it certainly stands to reason that it’s happening to some extent — there’s no way that activity is good for assets like Bitcoin.

As my colleagues Ben Bartenstein and Allyson Versprille reported, the White House’s National Security Council and the Treasury Department have solicited the help of crypto exchanges to stop such transactions. Ultimately, dodging sanctions will do nothing to help the crypto industry make friends in Washington.

In theory, cryptocurrencies’ appeal is that they’re not issued or controlled by any state or central entity. That has made them popular with Libertarians, Venezuelans living through hyperinflation and, of course, some internet extortionists, drug dealers and general money launderers.

Skeptics in Congress and at regulatory agencies frequently cite crypto’s illicit use, but there’s significant debate over whether the mainstream digital currencies are truly useful for criminals at all because the radical transparency of technology like the Bitcoin ledger facilitates tracking.

Last month, the U.S. seized some $3.6 billion in Bitcoin stolen in a 2016 hack, underscoring that the authorities have developed the expertise to follow the on-chain money trail. Yet criminals must be finding some success or they wouldn’t keep doing it.

To be sure, Chainalysis says the transparency of the blockchain makes it likely that bad actors will get caught, and specifically sanctioned people probably moved their money well in advance of the sanction announcements, but it’s hard to underestimate the brazenness and stupidity of some criminals.

So the bump in demand may help prop up prices for a few days, but it appears that the illicit impact — if any — is modest; crypto’s boosters should hope that remains so. As the asset class fights for broader adoption, no one is ever going to look favorably upon anything that undercuts efforts to punish a ruthless dictator for a senseless war.

Ukraine War Bonds Prove Hard To Buy For Global Investors

Ukraine is getting inundated with requests from investors from around the world to get in on an auction of securities to help fund its military. The problem is the war itself is complicating their ability to buy the bonds.

Ukraine is on Tuesday auctioning so-called war bonds — 1-year hryvnia-denominated notes, whose coupon isn’t yet set. The securities are set to be similar to other local debt sold by the government.

Ukraine’s finance ministry cut off access to its website from abroad to avoid cyber attacks, making it difficult for investors to get access to information.

Concerns over the settlement process for the bonds and the information haze mean that some international bond funds will remain on the sidelines at Tuesday’s auction, according to three people familiar with portfolio mangers’ thinking, who asked not to be cited by name because they aren’t cleared to speak publicly on the matter.

While auction results are expected around 5 p.m. in Kyiv (3 p.m in London), the Finance Ministry said earlier on Tuesday that was considering more debt sales to tap the international investment community’s “big interest” in helping Ukraine defend itself.

It asked investors to inquire directly at the country’s primary dealers about auction details.

The war bond is the latest effort by Ukraine to raise money as it faces off against Russia’s far bigger military force. It’s already shared details of crypto wallets to raise money via Bitcoin and other tokens, and the country’s central bank set up a special account last week to accept donations in multiple currencies.

The sovereign’s junk-rated dollar bonds advanced, with the 2033 tenor trading at 35 cents on the dollar, compared with about 34 cents on Monday. Ukraine faces payments of about $300 million in coupons on six foreign-currency notes issued in 2015, as part of its debt restructuring following Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

Updated: 3-2-2022

Energy-Rich Russia May Turn To Bitcoin Mining To Dent Sanctions

* Crypto Mining Would Give Russia Access To Some Hard Currency
* Size Of Economy Means Mining Would Only Have Marginal Impact

Rich in energy, but starved of foreign currency, Russia may use Bitcoin mining to dent the impact of ever tougher sanctions as the war in Ukraine drags on, according to one analyst.

“It wouldn’t be a stretch for the Russian government or certain sanctioned entities to look to mining as a way to get access to Bitcoin,” said David Carlisle, director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at blockchain analytics firm Elliptic. “They could be translated to goods and services or just hard cash.”

Countries such as Iran might have already leveraged mining of crypto currencies, which is highly energy intensive, to convert its sanctioned energy into Bitcoin and hard currency for the government.

About 4.5% of Bitcoin mining took place in Iran in the last year, potentially generating $1 billion for the government, Carlisle said. At the same time, Russia and Belarus have been two of the most welcoming countries after China issued a blanket ban on crypto mining last May.

China was the largest Bitcoin mining hub in the world and some Chinese miners have migrated to central Asia and eastern Europe, including Russia.

Russia’s President Vladmir Putin has backed crypto mining, despite the Bank of Russia’s proposal to ban mining and trading. Belarus said in January it would continue its liberal crypto rules.

Carlisle listed crypto mining along with cyber crime and non-compliant entities such as certain crypto exchanges as three potential ways for Russia to evade sanctions. However, given the size of Russia’s economy and its financial market, crypto is unlikely to play a big role in helping Russia to circumvent sanctions.

 

To Punish Putin, The World Turned Finance Into A Weapon Of War

Russia’s central bank became the main target on a front that could crater the country’s economy.

The European Union, the U.S., and a handful of America’s allies in Asia have responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with financial sanctions unprecedented for a target Russia’s size. The steps taken to isolate it within the global financial system are aimed at punishing President Vladimir Putin by sowing chaos in his country’s economy.

In the first week of the conflict, Russia’s central bank was struggling to contain the fallout on its own side of the border, while Ukraine’s was able to maintain a semblance of stability even as it rallied global financial resources around its defense effort.

Central banks have been key players in war finance since their inception. “You can go back to the establishment of the Bank of England in the 1690s, and you can see directly where that establishment was in large part in order to be able to finance wars against Louis XIV, and also to help stabilize the economy during those wars,” says Paul Poast, a political science professor at the University of Chicago.

The Central Bank of Russia was indeed central to Putin’s strategy in the years leading up to the invasion—since 2014, when he annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region and Western nations responded with sanctions aimed at making it more difficult for Russia to transact in the U.S.-dominated global financial system.

The repercussions from that episode were severe. Combined with a collapse in oil prices that year, it sent the ruble tumbling more than 40% against the U.S. dollar, forcing the Russian central bank to enact dramatic interest-rate increases that pushed the economy into recession.

From that point the bank embarked on a massive accumulation of foreign exchange reserves. That stockpile, now the fourth-largest in the world, at around $643 billion, could be deployed to defend the ruble in the event of another crisis. “They have been trying to ‘bulletproof’ their economy from sanctions since 2014,” says Elina Ribakova, deputy chief economist at the Institute of International Finance in Washington.

That bulletproofing came at a significant cost. Hundreds of billions of dollars brought in via oil and gas exports were salted away instead of being reinvested in the economy, which has averaged growth of 1% a year since 2014. In that sense, Russian citizens have already been bearing the cost of the current conflict for many years.

That’s why the new raft of sanctions, and in particular the extraordinary targeting of Russia’s central bank, is such a big deal.

Putin was counting on the world’s, and especially Europe’s, reliance on Russian energy exports and investments by a host of marquee foreign corporations to prevent governments from taking extreme measures in the opening days of the invasion.

It didn’t work: Just days after Russian troops marched into Ukraine, the U.S., European nations, and other allies topped off a barrage of harsh sanctions by cutting off access to hundreds of billions of Russia’s reserves parked in their jurisdictions. (China did not follow suit.)

With that, Putin’s war chest was effectively cut in half overnight. “At this stage, ‘Fortress Russia’ is going out the window,” Ribakova says. The move to freeze reserves “significantly limits their options in terms of helping the financial sector, looking after common Russians—you know, financing the war effort.”

The financialization of warfare is bringing the social character of money to the fore on a global scale. Or, as Bloomberg Opinion columnist Matt Levine put it: “Russia’s foreign reserves consist, in the first instance, of a set of accounting entries. But in a crisis the accounting entries don’t matter at all. All that matters are relationships, and if your relationships get bad enough then the money is as good as gone.”

And the fallout has been severe. To halt the ruble’s free fall without depleting its greatly diminished stock of foreign reserves, Russia’s central bank instead hiked its benchmark interest rate to 20%. Stagflation is sure to follow as the economy sinks into recession while a weaker currency propels already-elevated inflation higher.

Russian officials also were forced to put stringent controls in place to deter capital flight and stem a bank run that drained some $14 billion in deposits in a single day. Measures included freezing the assets of all nonresident investors, making it impossible for them to liquidate their holdings, and a ban on converting rubles into other currencies.

And companies bringing in export revenue from overseas were instructed to sell 80% of their foreign exchange, effectively drafting businesses to help put a floor under the ruble.

The U.S. and Europe also moved to disconnect several major Russian banks from SWIFT, the global messaging system used to facilitate payments between financial institutions. That will force them to figure out complicated workarounds.

If the objective of all these moves is to precipitate a financial crisis in Russia, the strategy seems to be working. One telling indicator: The cost of insuring Russia’s government debt has shot up, with one gauge showing the likelihood of a default had climbed to as high as 65%.

Fitch and Moody’s each downgraded Russia’s sovereign credit rating to junk status on Wednesday, saying sanctions would weaken the economy. “In terms of economic war, this is jumping into the void,” says Yakov Feygin, associate director of the Future of Capitalism program at the Berggruen Institute in Los Angeles.

Even if President Volodymyr Zelenskiy succeeds, with a big assist from his friends abroad, in repelling Russia’s attack, Ukraine’s economy will suffer heavily from the physical destruction of the military incursion. Yet unlike in Russia, the central bank at least has been able to maintain liquidity in its domestic financial system to support the nation’s defense.

On Day 1 it put a new twist on the central bank’s traditional war-finance role by setting up a crowdfunding account to process donations from foreigners. It has raised almost $200 million so far.

Ukraine’s finance ministry sold 8.1 billion hryvnia, or $277 million, of war bonds paying 11% interest to international investors on Tuesday. It also made a regularly scheduled interest payment of about $300 million on outstanding debt.

International assistance is flooding in through other channels. The U.S. and European countries have already authorized billions of dollars’ worth of funds and equipment to aid Ukraine’s defense, and more is on the way. For the first time in its history, the EU is supplying arms to a country at war, using a financial vehicle it calls the Peace Facility.

Smooth operations at the National Bank of Ukraine offered a modicum of stability on the ground in Kyiv in the first several days of the invasion, even as air-raid sirens were ringing and residents fled to bomb shelters. On Day 7 the central bank eased previously instated restrictions on foreign-currency withdrawals for individuals, lifting the cap to 30,000 hryvnia, or almost $1,000, a day.

Supplies of basic goods are running low in cities sustaining heavy damage from the Russian assault, such as Kyiv and Kharkiv, according to Nataliia Shapoval, chairman of the KSE Institute at the Kyiv School of Economics.

But in areas of the country where civilian infrastructure hasn’t been targeted, business is more normal and prices have not been affected. “Macrofinancial stability is important, and the ability of the central bank and ministry of finance to be in control is important,” Shapoval says.

Russia, despite the heavy sanctions, still retains its oil and gas exports as a critical financial lifeline. “We have a situation where energy prices are high, and they may get even higher, and this is a help to the Russian economy,” says Vasily Astrov, an economist at the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies.

“This is a difference to the situation in 2014, when it was a double shock of Western sanctions and falling energy prices.”

The U.S. and the EU have been loath to take any actions that would result in a serious disruption to oil and gas supplies, as they would be on the receiving end of some of the economic repercussions.

Russia provides approximately 40% of Europe’s natural gas, and the European Central Bank has estimated that a total shutoff would result in an economic hit equal to 3% of gross domestic product. The resulting spike in oil and gas prices would also stoke inflation, which has become a political problem.

But Ukraine’s allies can keep climbing an “escalation ladder” if they so choose, according to Ribakova, of the Institute of International Finance. The EU is looking at ways to limit access to its ports and waters for Russian vessels, expanding on an earlier ban of Russian flights into the bloc’s airspace.

And on Wednesday, the White House announced restrictions on exports of oil technology to the country aimed at “degrading Russia’s status as a leading energy supplier.”

The extent to which the newfangled techniques of financial warfare will prove an effective substitute for old-fashioned troops and tanks remains to be seen. Julia Friedlander, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and former U.S. Treasury Department official, worries that the outcome could be a lose-lose situation.

“I think this is going to be a conflict that is going to go on for a very long time, and we could very much see it completely destroy Ukraine. That’s my biggest fear: You impoverish Russia through sanctions, but they destroy Ukraine in the process, and no one gets anything.”

Bitcoiners Were Right: Weaponized Finance Just Created A Post-Dollar Planet

Vladimir Putin’s Russia is facing a wave of truly unprecedented financial sanctions in retaliation for its widely scorned invasion of Ukraine. The sanctions have suddenly revealed the massive power that lay dormant in the unified global banking system for decades. But it likely also marks the beginning of that power’s end, and the dawn of something more fragmented.

Russia’s dependence on systems like SWIFT bank messaging, correspondent banking and ApplePay is a product of the global dominance of a unified market-capitalist status quo.

This status quo represents the neoliberal “End of History” that was widely presumed to have arrived with the fall of the Soviet Union. But there may be no better sign of the end of the End of History than the weaponization of finance happening right now.

The scope of sanctions hitting Russia over the last week has showcased the incredible web of nested cross-border interdependencies that make up the fabric of essentially every contemporary society – and their ultimate fragility. Some Russian banks have been disconnected from the SWIFT messaging system crucial to international transfers.

Shares in one of Russia’s largest banks collapsed 95% on the London Stock Exchange. The ruble has declined by roughly 50% against the dollar in just a week, a body blow to the Russian economy that would have long-lasting effects even if it is a short term dip – which it won’t be.

Trade restrictions are looking just as devastating. Taiwan has said it will halt semiconductor exports to Russia. Industry observers believe the Russian commercial airfleet, made up largely of Boeing and Airbus planes, is two to three weeks away from complete shutdown because of an embargo on parts.

Apple Pay and other consumer payments services have been cut off for some customers, reportedly causing disruptions including slowdowns in Moscow’s subway system.

The total impact reaches down into the very guts of Russian society. It was seemingly not much of an exaggeration, then, when France’s finance minister promised on Tuesday, March 1 that “We are going to cause the collapse of the Russian economy.”

…Aaaaand It’s Gone

The most frankly insane element of the sanctions, though, is the freezing of the global foreign exchange reserves of Russia’s central bank.

This is possible because, as London School of Economics visiting fellow Ousmene Mandeng explained to the Financial Times, “foreign exchange reserves are not held by central banks” but instead by other banks around the world. “Securities and money never move, everything is external.”

This is believed to have affected fully half of the reserve holdings of Russia’s central bank, which recently totaled more than $630 billion. These sizable reserves, according to National Public Radio, were part of a long-term plan to make Russia “sanction proof.” This strongly suggests that Putin has made a massive geopolitical miscalculation about the nature of the global financial system.

Russia has behaved as if it trusted European and American central banks to continue honoring its reserves even after an invasion of Ukraine.

This would have allowed Russia to continue propping up the value of the ruble, among other things, for months, even in the face of sanctions.

Russia has refused to recognize the sovereignty and property rights of Ukraine, so it has few legs to stand on while complaining about having its lunch money stolen. But these sanctions will also permanently undermine the widespread assumption that global banking is a merely neutral and rules-based system.

Adam Tooze, writing in Chartbook, argues that “To do this [reserves freeze] to a fellow central bank involves breaking the assumption of sovereign equality and the common interest in upholding the rights to property.”

As Matt Levine pointed out with predictable brilliance at Bloomberg, the sanctions have driven home that the global banking system, like most monetary systems, amounts to “a way to keep track of what society thinks you deserve.”

This is an excellent way to think about the yen for “hard money” that motivates many bitcoiners. While there are ways for nation-states to restrict the movement of bitcoin, such as enjoining its sale via exchanges, bitcoin stored in an on-chain wallet cannot be seized or frozen by the kind of decrees that have cut Russia off at the knees.

Bitcoin could be described as a “digital bearer instrument,” and can be moved, bought and held without third parties or intermediaries outside of its own network.

This gives new resonance to characterizations of bitcoin as “digital gold.” Gold has always been a particularly useful instrument during wartime or other disruptions, because its value is considered inherent to the object. (Gold rose nearly 10% in February amid rumors of war).

Bitcoin is far more mobile than gold, but also has some disadvantages: in particular, gold has no memory, while the transaction history of each bitcoin is preserved on the blockchain. That presents real potential problems for the trade in formerly “dirty” coins, which could wind up blacklisted by mainstream exchanges even after they’re no longer owned by a global pariah.
An unwelcome vindication

Still, what we’re seeing is a significant vindication of the underlying skepticism of traditional banking that drives many in crypto, and particularly those committed to Bitcoin specifically. It is arguably the exclamation point after years of smaller examples of financial sanctions against groups ranging from sex workers to Canadian truckers.

That doesn’t mean bitcoiners are dancing in the streets, though, any more than someone warning about the U.S. infrastructure deficit should celebrate when a bridge collapses. While Bitcoin is a useful object lesson and model for what a neutral global payments system could look like, it is unlikely that the near future will see huge states using bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies to depart the banking status quo.

Instead, there is considerable speculation among finance professionals that Russia could begin conducting trade using China’s renminbi and banking infrastructure. Though the dollar is currently surging as a safe haven, a Russian move to RMB could significantly accelerate the ongoing decline of the dollar’s global dominance.

That would be a major step towards the repolarization of a world we once thought of as geopolitically flat – or just proof that the dream of neoliberal universality was a delusion all along.

Updated: 3-2-2022

Ukraine Says ‘Airdrop Confirmed’ After Receiving $33M In Crypto Donations

It’s the first time a country will conduct an airdrop for donations.

Ukraine will conduct an airdrop to donors who have contributed money to its official crypto addresses, the country said on Wednesday through its official Twitter account.

“Airdrop confirmed. Snapshot will be taken tomorrow, on March 3rd, at 6 pm Kyiv time (UTC/GMT +2 hours). Reward to follow!,” the tweet read.

* Airdrops involve crypto projects sending free tokens en masse to their communities in a bid to encourage adoption. El Salvador previously air-dropped $30 worth of bitcoin to each of its citizens last year. The airdrop on Thursday, however, would mark the first time a nation conducts an airdrop for crypto donations. It wasn’t clear which token Ukraine plans to air-drop.

* Ukraine started accepting cryptocurrencies as means of donation on Feb. 26 as Russian troops entered Ukrainian territory in a “special military operation.” The country is accepting donations in bitcoin, ether, USDT and Polkadot’s DOT tokens.

* The country has received $33 million in crypto donations so far, as reported.

 

Money Transfers To Ukraine Surge After Russian Invasion

Payments to Ukranians more than doubled on the day of the Russian invasion.

Money transfers to Ukraine have jumped since the Russian invasion.

Payments to Ukranians from friends and family abroad were 121% higher on Feb. 24, the day of the invasion, than the 30-day average at MoneyGram International Inc., a major money-transfer service. Transfers increased close to 70% between Feb. 21 and Feb. 28, the company said.

Remittances, or funds sent to home countries from abroad, typically increase during times of crisis. The fighting in Ukraine threatens to upend economies and livelihoods in the country.

Some $15.21 billion in remittances flowed into Ukraine in 2020, according to World Bank estimates, a sum that accounts for about 10% of the country’s gross domestic product.

MoneyGram said it halted payments to Ukraine for about 24 hours after the Russian invasion last week. The Dallas-based company said it took the time to confirm that its bank partners within the country could keep operating and for Ukraine’s central bank to confirm its exchange rate.

“Our ability to operate in Ukraine is going to remain largely contingent on Ukraine’s ability to stave off the Russian invasion,” MoneyGram Chief Executive W. Alexander Holmes said in an interview.

The company has halted money transfers out of Ukraine after the country’s government restricted banks from sending money abroad, Mr. Holmes said. Banks in the country can no longer guarantee a supply of dollars and euros, so most cash payouts are in the local currency, the hryvnia, he said.

Transfers to Russia rose more than 50% during the week of the invasion, MoneyGram said. The company remains able to process transactions to Russia, but said the continuity of its service is uncertain as conditions change in the country.

Russian sanctions already have prompted some money-transfer companies, including London-based Wise, to temporarily suspend payments to Russia.

“The impact of ongoing sanctions and recent developments in the region mean it’s more difficult to operate, and we are unable to continue our service to [Russia],” the company said Tuesday on Twitter.

The sanctioning of several large Russian banks, coupled with their severance from the Swift payment system, will make it difficult for banks to receive payments or act as intermediaries for wire services, said Brian Frey, an attorney at Alston & Bird LLP who specializes in sanctions violations.

“The unintended consequence of all of this, particularly for the citizens of Russia who are not among the oligarchy and the wealthy Russians, is that they are going to suffer economic impact and direct financial impact from not being able to get money into the country,” Mr. Frey said.

Exceptions to sanctions are sometimes made for transactions that fall into the category of humanitarian aid, Mr. Frey said. Remittances to Afghanistan, for example, were still permitted after the Taliban, a U.S.-sanctioned group, took control of the country last summer. And there are carve-outs for remittances to parts of eastern Ukraine that were subject to sanctions before the war, he said.

But humanitarian exceptions are less common when the U.S. has labeled financial institutions as specially designated nationals, as it has with large Russian banks, Mr. Frey said.

The sanctions by the U.S., Europe and Canada aim to limit the Bank of Russia’s access to its $630 billion in reserves. They are expected to limit Russia’s ability to backstop its banks with access to foreign currencies.

When foreign currencies become scarce, Russians won’t be able to protect the value of their money by converting it to euros or dollars. The steep devaluation of the Russian ruble has increased Russian demand for withdrawals in euros and dollars over rubles since the invasion, Mr. Holmes of MoneyGram said.

Capital controls imposed by Russia this week block residents from sending funds to banks in other countries, an attempt to prevent an exodus of money from the country.

Some customers have reported problems completing transactions through MoneyGram and Western Union in recent days.

Almut Rochowanksi of Bangor, Maine, said she and her husband tried to send money to friends in Ukraine about 10 times over the weekend. She ran into error codes and incomplete transactions with both Western Union and MoneyGram. Ms. Rochowanski said she never experienced any issues sending funds to the country before the war.

“Some people [in Ukraine] have no reserves, and when an emergency like this happens, they have nothing they could use to make this trip to the border,” Ms. Rochowanksi said. “We’re just trying to get money there as soon as possible.”

She eventually managed to send money to a handful of contacts in the country, who agreed to forward it to its intended recipients.

Western Union declined to comment. The company said on Twitter that customers can currently make money transfers to Ukraine, but payouts are only available in hryvnia.

“Remittances are always, and especially during times of crisis, a true lifeline for those who need it the most,” the company said.

 

Divesting From Russia Proves Complicated For Pension Funds

Retirement systems plan to dump Russian holdings but face a lack of buyers and financial-services providers.

Pension funds around the world are reviewing their investments in Russia’s energy, banking and mining sectors in the wake of the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Norway’s largest pension fund, KLP Group; Denmark’s AkademikerPension; and retirement systems in Connecticut and Rhode Island have announced plans to dump their holdings in Russia. Other U.S. pension funds from New York to California are taking stock of their Russia investments amid debate over whether teachers’ and firefighters’ retirement savings should be tied up in a country waging war on its neighbor.

Selling the holdings, however, is proving complicated. Some financial-services providers are backing away from Russian securities, preventing investors from buying and selling ruble-priced stocks and bonds traded inside and outside Russia. Pension funds hoping to sell holdings that trade on the Moscow Exchange had to shelve those plans after Russia’s central bank shut the exchange down Monday.

Kiran Aziz, head of responsible investments at KLP, said the $70 billion fund has sold some holdings on the London Stock Exchange but hasn’t been able to sell others listed in Moscow.

“The intent to sell is also meant to send a message from [a] responsible-investment point of view, even if you are not able to immediately execute the trade,” Ms. Aziz said.

Pensions in the U.S. and around the world hold Russian stocks in their international equities portfolios, with the holdings making up perhaps 1% of total pension assets.

Common investments include Russian lenders Sberbank and VTB Bank, both targets of recent U.S. sanctions, as well as energy giant Gazprom PJSC. U.S.-based companies are working to determine whether they need to take any action to comply with those sanctions, fund officials and advisers said.

Debates over retirement-fund divestment, which gained attention as a protest against South African apartheid in the 1980s, have intensified in an increasingly global investment environment.

Over the past year, several major pension funds have increased their target allocation to international equities, which comprised a median of roughly 10% of public-pension-fund portfolios as of December 2021, according to Wilshire Trust Universe Comparison Service.

Many pension funds already steer clear of investments linked to Sudan and Iran. In the U.S.—where the more than $4 trillion in state and local government retirement-plan assets falls well short of the amount needed to pay for promised benefits—some workers and retirees have pushed back, arguing that pension trustees should focus solely on growing their retirement savings.

A November 2016 study of U.S. pension plans by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research found that average yearly returns in states with divestment requirements were 0.4 percentage points lower than plans in states without such requirements.

A 2001 decision by Calpers, the nation’s largest pension fund, not to invest in tobacco has cost the fund a cumulative $3.7 billion since then, according to a consultant’s analysis last year.

Retirement systems divesting from Russia can expect to sell at a significant loss, pension officials and other asset managers said. Russian stocks and bonds held by the $68 billion Maryland State Retirement and Pension System, for example, had a market value of $96 million as of Thursday, down from $197 million a week before, the fund said.

Pension funds willing to take the loss still might have difficulty unloading their positions as countries hand down sanctions and prospective buyers and financial-services providers back away from Russian investments, said David Kotok, chief investment officer at Sarasota-based Cumberland Advisors.

“Selling into a market which is either closing, doesn’t want to buy or is under restrictions is one of the most difficult things you can do,” Mr. Kotok said. “You have to have a payment mechanism that’s not interrupted. Even if I’m willing to take 10 cents on the dollar…how do I get paid?”

 

Western Oil Companies Leave Russia To Their State-Run Rivals

The exit has been less costly than the big write-downs imply, but it marks another step in the rise of national oil and gas companies.

Selling out of Russia isn’t as painful for Western oil and gas supermajors as the scale of their write-downs would suggest. But it will further diminish their global relevance relative to the real giants of the fossil-fuel industry today: state-controlled national oil companies.

As the global response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has escalated, independent oil and gas companies have headed for the exit. Exxon Mobil became the latest shoe to drop late Tuesday, following BP, Equinor and Shell. Given a dearth of buyers and the complexity of selling within a web of sanctions, they will likely have to impair or even write off a combined $22 billion of assets.

The lion’s share of that is BP’s 19.75% stake in Rosneft, with a book value of $14 billion. It represented about half of the British company’s booked oil and gas reserves and a third of its oil production, but only about 3% of its cash flow over the past four years. Exxon Mobil has $4 billion in Russian assets, mostly in an oil and gas facility it operates on Sakhalin Island in Russia’s Far East.

Shell’s $3 billion includes joint ventures with gas-export-giant Gazprom and a stake in its mothballed Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Equinor had $1.2 billion in Russian joint ventures with Rosneft. French supermajor TotalEnergies had said it wouldn’t invest in new Russian projects but didn’t mention selling existing assets. It is now under political pressure at home to do more.

Investors seem relatively sanguine. BP’s stock is down just 1.4% this week, representing a little over $1 billion in market value. One reason is the natural hedge of rising oil and gas prices. Even though the sanctions regimes so far exclude key commodities, they do touch some banks involved in the trade. The market is shunning Russian oil while awaiting more information, driving crude prices well over $100 a barrel.

Also, exiting Rosneft’s Arctic drilling programs removes an awkward stain on BP’s green-transition story. And investors likely discounted the holdings for local political risk and the possibility that the assets might never pay back.

Meanwhile, state-run oil and gas companies seem to be proceeding with business as usual. A no-drama meeting is expected when the Organization of Petroleum Producing Countries and friends, including Russia, meet today to discuss production quotas.

The Western divestments are therefore likely to speed up an existing trend: the shift from independent producers to OPEC states as decarbonization picks up pace.

Russian and Middle Eastern companies are spending more on drilling and exploration than they were before the pandemic. Independent supermajors are generally not: They face demands for capital discipline in the U.S. and for a strategic shift toward low-emission energy in Europe.

State-run producers are largely insulated from those pressures. Instead, most of them must contend with their political masters’ demands to exploit natural resources to meet national energy, employment and state-revenue requirements.

As independent supermajors plot a path into the growing clean-energy market, they are ceding share to national oil companies in the fossil-fuel market, which is expected to eventually shrink. The pace of the shift to low-emission energy is the subject of great debate. In oil and gas production, though, the shift from independent to national companies is only getting faster.

Lindner Says G-7, EU Officials Working On Crypto Sanctionability

* Must ‘Maximally Isolate’ Russia, German Finance Minister Says
* Cryptos Suspected As Possible Avenue For Evading Sanctions

Finance ministers from the Group of Seven and European Union are working on preventing Russia from using crypto money to circumvent sanctions, according to German Finance Minister Christian Lindner.

While unwilling to reveal any details, Lindner said the issue is being discussed. His country currently holds the presidency of the G-7, whose finance chiefs and central bank governors held virtual meetings on Tuesday together with Ukraine Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko.

“The problem is known and we are working on it,” Lindner said in an interview with Welt TV on Wednesday. “It’s about maximally isolating Russia at all levels” and having a “maximum ability to sanction — and that also includes crypto assets.”

Measures already announced by the U.S. and EU aim to limit Russia’s ability to do business in dollars and some other international currencies. They include penalties on the nation’s major banks, as well as restrictions on the country’s elite.

That’s led to speculation that crypto — which is touted as an alternative to traditional financial systems — could serve as a tool wealthy Russians might use to circumvent those sanctions. Some crypto exchanges are based in jurisdictions beyond the scope of sanctions, and others don’t require customer identification, making it difficult to impose curbs.

Fiat currencies, on the other hand, need to move through third-party institutions that have the ability to track, freeze or block them.

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde already called last week for ramped up efforts to approve crypto regulations in the EU that could help to implement sanctions in that area. The European parliament is working on legislation known as Markets in Crypto Assets (MiCA), which aims to establish a regulatory framework that could also ease the application of sanctions.

China, Eying Taiwan, Gets Lesson From Ukraine’s Stiff Resistance

Beijing hasn’t ruled out taking democratically-ruled island by force, but Russia’s struggles show potential military hurdles.

Russia’s initial struggles in its invasion of Ukraine have offered a vivid illustration to China’s leaders of the military challenges if they tried to seize control of Taiwan through force.

The most prominent is the possibility of fierce resistance from local people defending their homes and sovereignty from any invasion.

“The chief surprise for Russia, which may well be the chief lesson that China takes, is the willingness of the Ukrainian people to fight it out,” said Bernard Cole, a retired U.S. Navy captain and former professor at the National War College.

Russia’s experience also suggests that China would face rapid, globally coordinated economic retaliation from the U.S. and its allies. Taiwan would likely get military help as well, such as antitank and antiaircraft weapons that allies are sending to Ukraine, and possibly direct intervention by U.S. forces.

Yet analysts said it was unlikely that Beijing, having seen Russia’s troubles, would give up the option of absorbing Taiwan by force. Instead, Russia’s slow progress shows the value of overwhelming initial strikes that some analysts assume China would make in any assault on Taiwan.

“Chinese military thinking emphasizes a rapid escalation with great degrees of force in the initial stages of conflict, especially if you’re trying to get the other side to concede to negotiations to your position,” said Oriana Skylar Mastro, an expert on the Chinese military at Stanford University.

The U.S. Army is testing the Iron Dome on Guam. WSJ’s Shelby Holliday got a first-hand look at the missile-defense system, which arrived months after a top military leader called the island’s defenses inadequate against threats from China.

The current war in Ukraine and any possible conflict over Taiwan aren’t perfect parallels, but the two situations resemble each other.

In each case, a great power desires to control a nearby territory with which it has close cultural, linguistic and historical ties. Russian President Vladimir Putin has long rejected democratically-ruled Ukraine’s basis for existing as an independent nation aligned with the West, while China’s Communist Party says Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic island, should be governed from Beijing as part of China.

Beijing says force remains an option to absorb Taiwan. But, in a key contrast to Mr. Putin, who already seized parts of Ukraine in 2014, China hasn’t grabbed any Taiwanese territory and has given no concrete indication it plans to invade.

China would start any invasion with one advantage compared with Russia: an even bigger and better-equipped military. China has around one million ground troops, the largest navy in the world and a military budget more than three times as large as Russia and around 13 times the size of Taiwan’s budget.

Taiwan has its own advantages compared with Ukraine. China would have to carry out an amphibious assault across a 90-mile-wide sea channel, landing in heavily populated areas guarded by sea mines and coastal missile batteries. By contrast, most of the Russian soldiers invading Ukraine simply rode over the border on flat roads.

Assuming Chinese invaders did establish a toehold in Taiwan, they would face a similar dilemma to Russia’s—how to seize power without destroying the place that Communist propaganda describes as part of the motherland.

“If the invader can’t force capitulation within the first three to four days, it’s likely in for a grinding, protracted campaign,” said Gabriel Collins of Rice University in Houston, who co-wrote a recent study of China’s political, economic and military strategy.

Taiwan’s leaders say they are improving readiness for any invasion, which has sometimes been questioned by U.S. strategists. Recent military-spending plans have focused on weapons to repel an invading force such as Harpoon antiship missiles. Tougher training for the military reserve starting this month is intended to give Taiwan a more effective and larger force to fight back.

Maj. Gen. Yu Wen-Zhen, an officer in Taiwan’s newly established All-Out Defense Mobilization Agency, said Wednesday that Taiwan was looking for lessons from the Ukraine military.

“We see that people in Ukraine are scrambling to fight for their country’s security and defending their homeland. We will continue to follow the situation,” said Maj. Gen. Yu.

His comments were unusual because both China and Taiwan have expressed discomfort with the Ukraine analogy. Chinese government representatives have repeatedly said there is no comparison because, in their view, it is already indisputable that Taiwan is part of China and can never be independent.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said shortly after Russia began its invasion that Taiwan was well prepared for any Chinese attack.

Grant Newsham, a former U.S. Marine colonel who studies East Asian security, said China would likely note that Russia has failed to spark an uprising from Russian speakers in the east of Ukraine and others who might have been thought to sympathize with Moscow.

Beijing has long assumed Taiwanese would want to unify with the mainland as China’s power and prosperity increase, but opinion polls show Taiwanese feel their identity is distinct from the mainland—analogous to the situation in Ukraine where most of the population wants to be independent of Russia.

Moscow’s inability to quickly topple the Ukrainian leadership would also be noted by Beijing, Mr. Newsham said.

“Brave leaders can rally people who were thought to be demoralized and ready to crumble. China may be underestimating Taiwan in this regard,” Mr. Newsham said. “Rather than terrorizing them into submission,” an attack on Taiwan’s people “may indeed provoke greater resistance.”

While Washington has purposely left ambiguity about its response to a war in Taiwan, many military analysts assume the U.S. would directly intervene to fight on Taiwan’s side, something President Biden has ruled out in Ukraine. Washington could get help behind the front lines from Japanese and other militaries.

U.S. military bases in southern Japan, a few hundred miles from Taiwan, as well as the U.S. Seventh Fleet, stationed near Tokyo, could allow for quick intervention if the U.S. chooses to defend Taiwan.

The Ukraine experience also suggests it would be possible to bring together a global coalition together quickly to hit the invader’s economy, although analysts say China’s far larger and more diversified economy compared with Russia might make it more able to endure sanctions.

Taken together, the lessons from Ukraine seem to offer a cautionary tale to Beijing’s leaders and might reduce the chance they would gamble on a Taiwan invasion. But Dr. Mastro of Stanford said Russia’s stumbles were unlikely to have changed the Chinese calculus.

“I think the main thing for China is to hone its capabilities, especially with an amphibious invasion, and make sure it has the confidence so that once it decides ‘OK, we’re ready to go’ they go,” she said.

Animoca Brands Will Stop Offering Services To Russian Users

The Hong Kong gaming giant has received legal advice to impose restrictions, the chairman and co-founder said.

Blockchain gaming giant Animoca Brands will halt services to Russian users amid the war in Ukraine, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

* In doing so, the Hong Kong firm is breaking with major crypto firms, many of whom have kept providing services to Russian users amid the security crisis.

* “The legal advice we’ve been receiving is we now have to impose some restrictions,” Animoca co-founder and Chairman Yat Siu told Bloomberg in an interview. He added that “It’s a sanctioned country on par with North Korea. The moment we end up doing business in those areas, we might ourselves become financially excluded from the financial system.”

* The decision will apply to subsidiaries such as Gamee and Lympo, but it won’t have any material impact on the company’s performance because it doesn’t have many users in Russia, Siu said, according to Bloomberg.

* Animoca’s latest valuation in January was $5.5 billion, following a $360 million funding round. The firm has invested in well-known non-fungible token (NFT) and metaverse projects, like Sandbox.

* Earlier this week, Binance, Kraken, KuCoin and Coinbase declined a request from the Ukrainian Ministry of Digital Transformation to block Russian accounts.

* One of the world’s largest Ethereum mining pools, Flexpool, said on Feb. 25 that it will cancel all services to Russian users and refund their outstanding balances, in support of Ukraine.

* Russian entities, including major banks, have been heavily sanctioned by several countries in the past few days following the Kremlin’s decision to invade Ukraine. The rules include warnings to crypto exchanges, the U.S. Treasury said.

* Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao said in an interview with Bloomberg today that the company is working to comply with the sanctions.

Experts Reject Concerns Russia Will Use Crypto To Bypass Sanctions: ‘Totally Unfounded’

Blockchain Association’s Jake Chervinsky believes politicians should not be worried that Russia may use crypto to get around economic sanctions because it is not feasible at the scale required.

Experts on crypto policy argue that concerns expressed by high-profile politicians about Russia evading economic sanctions using cryptocurrency are “totally unfounded.”

They say the crypto market is not nearly large enough nor deep enough to support the volume that Russia needs and that the country’s digital asset infrastructure is minimal.

Former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde are among the high-profile figures concerned that cryptocurrency could provide the means for Russia to bypass severe financial sanctions imposed for its invasion of Ukraine.

The country has been mostly cut off from the SWIFT cross-border transaction system, and businesses in America and other western countries are prohibited from doing business or transacting with Russian banks and the national wealth fund.

Jake Chervinsky, head of policy at crypto policy promoter the Blockchain Association in the U.S., posted a lengthy Twitter thread on Wednesday explaining how “Russia can’t and won’t use crypto to evade sanctions.”

 

Chervinsky stated three reasons why it is unlikely that Russia will use crypto to skirt U.S. sanctions. The first is that the sanctions are not limited to U.S. dollars, and it is now illegal for any U.S. business or citizen to transact at all with Russia. He said, “It doesn’t matter if they use dollars, gold, sea shells, or Bitcoin.”

The second reason is that the financial necessities of a nation like Russia far exceed the current capabilities of crypto markets, which Chervinsky called “too small, costly, & transparent to be useful for the Russian economy.” In other words, even if Russia could access enough liquidity, it still couldn’t hide its transactions in such a market.

Finally, the country has spent years trying to “sanctions proof” itself but has failed to build any meaningful crypto infrastructure or even finalize crypto regulations. Chervinsky said that crypto simply does not appear to be part of Russia’s plans to mitigate the effects of sanctions.

“The reality is Putin’s spent years trying to sanctions-proof Russia & crypto isn’t part of his plan. His strategy included diversifying Russia’s reserves into yuan & gold (not crypto), shifting trade to Asia (not onto blockchains), bringing manufacturing onshore, etc.”

However, Roman Bieda, head of fraud investigations at blockchain research platform Coinfirm, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that it was possible in general to use crypto to “evade sanctions and hide wealth” as has been done by North Korea, Venezuela and Iran.

But other experts told the outlet that said Russia’s case is different because of the scale of sanctions, its sluggish rate of crypto adoption and lack of depth in markets.

Ari Redbord, head of legal and government affairs at crypto crime investigator TRM Labs, said the transparency of blockchain was a natural deterrent to sanction evasion in this case.

“Russia cannot use crypto to replace the hundreds of billions of dollars that could be potentially blocked or frozen.”

Cointelegraph reported on Feb. 25 that ECB President Lagarde was eager to get the Markets in Crypto Assets bill passed by the European Parliament as soon as possible in order to give European authorities the means so that “crypto assets can actually be caught.” Lagarde has been pushing to pass the policies urgently in order to prevent Russian President Vladimir Putin from potentially being able to evade sanctions with crypto.

In an interview with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC this week, Clinton urged U.S. President Joe Biden to bar Russia from crypto trading. She and Maddow discussed the national security threats that could exist in regards to cryptocurrency, and Clinton said, “The Treasury Department and Europeans should look hard at how they can prevent crypto markets from giving an escape hatch to Russia.”

“I was disappointed to see some of the crypto exchanges — not all of them, but some of them — are refusing to end transactions with Russia from some philosophy of Libertarianism.”

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren also took the opportunity on Tuesday to state that American financial regulators should scrutinize digital assets because they risk “allowing Putin and his cronies to evade economic pain.”

Updated: 3-3-2022

How Bitcoin And A Crypto Exchange Became Part Of Ukraine’s War Effort

Kuna, Ukraine’s largest crypto exchange, has emerged as central hub for the country’s efforts to raise funds via cryptocurrencies.

The founder of Ukraine’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, Kuna, has been sleeping only a few hours a day since Russia invaded his country.

Trading of cryptocurrencies on Kuna has jumped since the war began. The surge is, in part, a consequence of strict capital controls implemented by the Ukrainian central bank: limits on ATM withdrawals, restrictions on the country’s official electronic-currency system and suspension of the foreign-exchange market. But cryptocurrency and Kuna are also providing a vehicle for outsiders to donate to Ukraine, raising funds for the government and relief efforts.

Michael Chobanian is operating Kuna from the western part of Ukraine after leaving Kyiv. He said he had moved his staff and the exchange’s infrastructure outside the country before the invasion. Mr. Chobanian spoke to The Wall Street Journal via recorded messages to save time. At the moment, everything is being done in an ad-hoc fashion.

“That’s the reality I have to live in,” Mr. Chobanian said.

The Ukrainian government and private aid groups have raised about $51 million in crypto from more than 89,000 donations since the invasion started last week, according to the analytics firm Elliptic. Most of that has been coordinated by Mr. Chobanian and Kuna.

On Kuna’s landing page for a fund it set up to accept donations, it says: “Let’s stop the war. Let there be peace. In crypto we trust, for Ukraine we pray.”

The crypto donations have helped finance military equipment, medical supplies and other goods, Elliptic said.

While activists, politicians and even terrorist groups have used cryptocurrencies to raise funds in recent years, it has never been done by a national government, said Tom Robinson, the co-founder of Elliptic.

The amounts aren’t large compared with other funding sources—the Biden administration proposed sending $6.4 billion in aid and Ukraine raised $270 million in bonds on Tuesday to help fund its war efforts—but it shows that crypto has a role to play, he said.

“It demonstrates that money can be raised directly from individuals around the world, for humanitarian aid, or to directly fund a war,” said Mr. Robinson.

Leaning on technology isn’t out of character for the Ukrainian government, which has been trying to boost its economy with the technology industry in recent years. The country launched an official government-based system of electronic money and created a Ministry of Digital Transformation. It was that ministry that asked Kuna to start the crypto fundraising effort, Mr. Chobanian said.

“Cash is useless because it’s physical,” Mr. Chobanian said. Carrying cash is also dangerous in a war zone, he said.

Most people, he said, are using credit cards or IBAN, the international bank account number system used by banks. Cryptocurrencies work well for large payments and international payments, Mr. Chobanian said.

Crypto transfers are especially fast compared with traditional methods. Transactions settle in about 10 minutes for bitcoin, for example, after which the money is transferred. What that means in practice is that the money being donated is available almost immediately.

Kuna converts crypto into other digital currencies or fiat currencies for bank accounts. Some of the supply companies for which Kuna is brokering the purchases, Mr. Chobanian said, are accepting payments directly in crypto. In some cases, they have walked the companies through the steps to do so.

“Because a lot of companies want to help us more than make money, they start accepting crypto for us,” Mr. Chobanian said.

The donation fund accepts a range of cryptocurrencies: bitcoin, ether, tether, litecoin, dogecoin and about 20 others. Gavin Wood, the founder of one blockchain-based platform called Polkadot, tweeted that he would donate $5 million if they set up a Polkadot address. Mr. Chobanian did a few hours later. Mr. Wood made the donation.

The Ukrainian government alone has raised $31.5 million in crypto donations and spent $17 million of it so far, according to an update Wednesday Mr. Chobanian shared on his Twitter account.

Ukrainian and U.S. officials have voiced concerns that Russians could use cryptocurrencies to evade sanctions. Over the weekend, Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov asked crypto exchanges to block Russian users, something none of the exchanges agreed to do. So far there hasn’t been evidence supporting a large-scale Russian effort to avoid sanctions using cryptocurrencies.

Ukraine Cancels Token Airdrop, Reveals New NFT Plans

Ukraine has received nearly $40 million in crypto donations, out of which almost $7 million came after the announcement of the now-canceled airdrop.

Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov informed the public on Wednesday that the country has decided to cancel an airdrop for crypto donors that was announced on Tuesday and plans to raise more money through the sale of nonfungible tokens (NFTs) instead.

Ukraine’s crypto airdrop program took an unexpected turn on Wednesday when a fake account created 7 billion “Peace World Tokens,” making it seem like it was the official airdrop token for crypto donors.

The fake airdrop began almost an hour before the officially announced time but was flagged soon after by Etherscan. A couple hours later, Fedorov announced that Ukraine plans to use NFTs and has given up plans of offering any fungible tokens.

The official Ukrainian crypto wallet for donations reportedly received $7 million in donations after the airdrop announcement, which became a topic of debate on Crypto Twitter. While the minister didn’t reveal the reason for the cancellation of the airdrop, some in the crypto community were not happy about the U-turn, while others, like Twitter influencer Cobie, found some humor in the situation.

Initially, Ukraine announced the airdrop on Wednesday following robust support from the crypto community along with millions in digital asset donations.

Ukraine has turned to crypto amid the worsening situation in the country as a result of Russia’s invasion. Last Saturday, the official Twitter account for Ukraine shared a Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) wallet address along with a call for help from the crypto community the world over.

Upon the crypto community’s request to add more crypto support, the official donation wallet went on to add Polkadot and Dogecoin addresses as well.

Reports suggest that the official donation wallet for Ukraine has received a total of $37 million in tracked crypto donations.

UkraineDAO Raises Over $6M Via NFT Sale To Aid Ukrainian Citizens

One week into the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the team behind UkraineDAO announced their efforts will go to local NGO Come Back Alive.

UkraineDAO, the decentralized autonomous organization created by Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova, Trippy Labs and PleasrDAO members, crowdfunded 2,188 Ether (ETH), or $6.1 million, for a 1/1 Ukrainian flag nonfungible token (NFT). Proceeds will go to nonprofit organizations in Ukraine that are helping those affected by the Russian invasion.

The NFT sale was hosted as a PartyBid auction, allowing people to pool resources and bid collectively for fractionalized ownership of the digital Ukrainian flag. Contributors will receive ERC-20 tokens in the form of LOVE tokens depending on the donation amount. At the time of writing, the NFT has not been fractionalized and the funds have not yet been distributed.

In a Twitter Spaces session hosted post-sale close by NFT Now, co-founders Crypto Steve and Tolokonnikova said their mission is to leverage the power of the crypto community to help those who need it the most.

CryptoSteve, as he is known on Twitter, said that UkraineDAO came together thanks to people who “just started raising their hands, being of service and selfless.” He said that the beauty of a DAO is its potential to set a new paradigm for fundraising and added that his key learning from UkraineDAO has been:

“If you wanna make something happen, you just start reaching out to friends. The fact that the Web3 space has mobilized faster and at the magnitude that countries do is super powerful.”

When asked how UkraineDAO came to the decision to distribute the proceeds of the sale, Tolokonnikova said that it came down to respecting everyone’s voices within the DAO. After reaching out to different local nonprofits, she said, they determined that Come Back Alive, a Ukrainian nonprofit that provides equipment for the army, was the “most trusted and effective” choice.

However, they decided that the money will be channeled only toward medical help, not toward military equipment. Tolokonnikova added that the next step before sending the funds is to make sure that the nonprofit’s wallet is set up properly and securely.

On Wednesday, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov announced that the country plans to continue raising money through the sale of NFTs, having raised a total of almost $40 million so far. UkraineDAO is still accepting direct crypto donations.

Ukraine’s Crypto Army Is Both Inspiration And Cautionary Tale

* Donations Pour In, But Lack Of Transparency Poses A Hindrance
* Botched Airdrop And Scams Plague Crypto Giving Efforts

Donations to the Ukrainian government and associated charitable organizations are skyrocketing as the fighting has intensified against invading Russian forces. Cryptocurrencies have figured conspicuously in the effort, billed as a new and welcome resource for the country in a time of crisis. But Ukraine’s journey into the cryptoverse has had its bumps, serving as much of a cautionary tale as an inspiration.

The Ukrainian government has established multiple digital wallets to receive donations in a variety of cryptocurrencies from Bitcoin to Dogecoin, while other non-governmental bodies also have their own wallets to procure donations for the country’s armed forces.

The process of tracking just how much has been donated is tough, though, despite crypto’s professed transparent nature. Bloomberg verified more than $28.5 million in donations to Ukraine’s government as of Thursday morning, but other sources such as blockchain analytics firm Elliptic puts the total closer to $43 million. The amount is but a drop in the ocean, however, with Ukraine’s 2021 defense budget estimated at $4 billion.

To those on the ground, assistance is vital no matter what form it comes in. For some Ukrainians abroad, crypto is where they feel they can contribute the most to aid the fight in their homeland. And Ukraine’s success in raising money and commanding the attention of crypto’s masses has been nothing to sniff at.

But the process hasn’t been without snarls: Ministers and donors alike have had to navigate a range of pitfalls including a failed project, a lack of spending power and rampant scams.

Some of its ideas have been good in theory, if not a little unorthodox. A promise by the Ukrainian government on Wednesday to reward crypto donors with a so-called “airdrop” — a process where early backers are given free tokens to help jump start a project — saw donations to its affiliated crypto addresses soar.

People rushed to part with their tokens ahead of a cutoff point at which a record would be taken of the donations made so far, effectively gamifying the humanitarian push by inviting in those who could make a quick buck off the resulting rewards.

But the airdrop was canceled a day later, following a spoof scam in which the government’s Ethereum address appeared to be distributing reward tokens to individual crypto addresses hours ahead of schedule.

Jess Symington, research lead at Elliptic, said the hacker had sent 7 billion newly minted tokens to Ukraine’s Ethereum address that contained a permission allowing them to control the tokens from whichever wallet received them — meaning that any tokens then sent from the Ukraine address would convincingly appear to have been transferred by the government itself.

The airdrop incident is only one example of how the state’s use of cryptocurrencies has resulted in an uptick in scams during the fundraising process, as incredibly adept digital attackers target people’s goodwill in seeking to do what they can to help the cause.

“The major peril that we’re seeing is just an unbelievable number of scams,” Symington said in an interview. “We’re seeing people screenshot Ukrainian government tweets with the addresses and just photoshop on their own addresses. We’re seeing people say, ‘I’m raising money, here’s my address’, and it’s obviously their personal address. We’re just seeing a huge number of scams.”

Aside from the figures, information about how the Ukrainian government spends the crypto it has received has been extremely limited, their hands tied by the restricted number of ways it can utilize the tokens for aid. Donations received to its Ethereum address have largely been transferred to a local crypto exchange for conversion into fiat currency, while non-governmental crypto organizations established to garner additional funds are sitting on piles of tokens with few ways to redistribute them.

Aid for Ukraine, a Ukrainian government-affiliated decentralized autonomous organization set up by local web3 firm Everstake and Solana co-founder Anatoly Yakovenko, said it has partnered with crypto exchange FTX in a bid to ease the process of disseminating crypto donations. Everstake Chief Executive Sergey Vasylchuk said the project is also working with the Ukrainian central bank to develop a bridge that would allow the bank to directly convert cryptoassets raised by the DAO for government use.

“Not everyone is willing to or can deal with crypto,” Vasylchuk said in an interview on Wednesday. “Buying like two or ten night-vision goggles is nothing, but in order to do something serious costs serious money. That’s why we need to build this unlimited gateway to help.”

Of course, some of these issues are a luxury that only those not living in a war zone have time to contemplate. Vasylchuk flew to Florida two days before Russia’s full-scale invasion began, but his parents and siblings remain in Ukraine. In a tearful conversation, he highlighted what might be the most important thing for outsiders to remember:

At the end of the day, glitches and a lack of clarity around crypto donations and how they might be used is unimportant in the context of warfare, bombed homes and families squatting in underground bunkers.

“You cannot be so calm, you cannot think about the transparency or about the proper use of these funds. Right now we need to resist,” he said. “It is just a question of survival.”

For sure, the Ukrainian state’s approach has been a masterclass in what a digital-first, crypto-native strategy can do for a country in its time of need. But it’s also a lesson in what problems the crypto ecosystem still has to solve before it can become the global payments savior its adherents say it is destined to be.

France Impounds Super Yacht Owned By Head Of Russian State Oil Giant

Rosneft Chief Executive Officer Igor Sechin’s superyacht was blocked by French customs officials on the Cote D’Azur, part of the European Union’s sanctions against wealthy Russians with close ties to President Vladimir Putin.

The Amore Vero was impounded overnight in the Mediterranean port of La Ciotat, near Marseille, as it was preparing an urgent departure, according to the French Finance Ministry.

“Thanks to French customs for enforcing the EU sanctions against people close to Russia’s leaders,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Twitter.

The yacht is owned by a company whose main shareholder is the Russian oil company head, the ministry said.

A spokesman for French Budget Minister Oliver Dussopt said the boat was prevented from leaving but that the asset had not been seized by the state.

The boat had arrived in La Ciotat on Jan. 3 and was due to remain at the port until April 1 for repairs.

“At the moment the inspection was carried out, the boat was readying to weigh anchor urgently, without having finished the planned work,” the Finance Ministry said.

Superyachts and other opulent displays of wealth among Russia’s elite have drawn intense scrutiny since the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov’s superyacht, the world’s largest by volume, was seized by German authorities in Hamburg, according to Forbes.

The German government froze the Dilbar, Usmanov’s 512-foot yacht, the publication said, citing three unidentified industry sources. Built in 2016 and named after his mother, the boat is estimated to be worth $594 million, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Usmanov was among six of Russia’s wealthiest individuals put under EU sanctions on Monday. He called the decision “unfair” and “defamatory.” The Dilbar had been undergoing refitting in the northern German city.

BlackRock Halts Purchases of Russian Securities Across Funds

World’s Largest Asset Manager Says Policy Took Effect Feb. 28
Firm Earlier Made Trade In Shares Of Russian Miner Polymetal

BlackRock Inc., the world’s biggest asset manager, halted purchases of Russian securities across its actively managed and index funds following the Ukraine invasion.

The suspension took effect Monday, and the firm is pressing index providers to remove the securities from broad-based benchmarks, New York-based BlackRock said Thursday in an emailed statement.

Russian securities account for less than 0.01% of client assets, mostly in index portfolios, according to the statement from Rich Kushel, head of the portfolio management group, and Salim Ramji, global head of iShares and index investments.

“We will continue actively consulting with regulators, index providers and other market participants to help ensure our clients can exit their positions in Russian securities, whenever and wherever regulatory and market conditions allow,” the executives said.

BlackRock, led by Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink, oversaw more than $10 trillion of assets at year-end.

Last week, before the policy took effect, BlackRock made a trade of 12 million pounds ($16 million) in shares of precious-metals miner Polymetal International Plc, based in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Shares of Polymetal, which have plunged 86% this year, will be removed from the FTSE 100 index as of March 21.

“This trade would not be permitted by the policy BlackRock instituted on Monday, which we believe reflects BlackRock’s and our clients’ values,” the asset manager said in the statement. “We have been moving as quickly as possible in close coordination with many other parties to meet the needs of our clients in a highly complex and fluid situation.”

 

Hacktivists Are Piercing Russia’s Propaganda Bubble

A range of hacker groups are hitting the Kremlin hard, but they could be more effective by bringing the truth of Putin’s war directly to Russian citizens.

Moscow users of Google Maps were greeted earlier this week with something they rarely see: photos of horrific scenes from Ukraine, including bombed out homes and injured civilians, and of captured Russian soldiers. The images showed up in the “latest photos” tab of landmarks on the app until Google blocked new photos from its maps of the region this week.

While a blockbuster cyber attack from Russia has so far failed to materialize, hacktivists have waged dozens of digital skirmishes. The Ukrainian government has created a volunteer “IT Army,” attracting hundreds of thousands of people who have knocked major Russian websites offline and helped distribute an air raid siren app.

Never before has a government crowdsourced hacktivists in this way, and in a country already teeming with expertise; Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest markets for remote software engineers, with an estimated 200,000 tech employees.

Broader and more intense than even the activity around the Arab Spring, however, the insurgency has looked chaotic and at times unconstructive.

A group that disabled electric-charging stations in Russia and re-programmed them to say “Putin is a ****head” is unlikely to have won hearts and minds among Russian citizens. A more useful tactic in the long run may be to try and break through the propaganda bubble that surrounds Russians, as with the Google Maps stunt.

Russians are surrounded by an Orwellian alternate reality from state media channels, with most citizens getting their information from TV broadcasts that censor the war. They are told the Ukrainian government is bombing its own residential areas and using children as human shields.

Their own military, they are led to believe, is engaged in a human-rights mission while economic problems caused by recent sanctions are the fault of the West, not the Russian government. The few street protests against the war are, of course, never shown.

Information warfare is a critical part of the Kremlin’s offensive. Its warplanes have begun shooting down mobile-phone towers in Ukraine, while Russia’s censorship office has threatened to block Wikipedia in the country if it doesn’t delete information about the war.

When hacktivists target electric fueling stations or warn Russians to withdraw all their money by March 3rd, they risk fueling the narrative that Russians are victims of the West. Instead they could create windows to the truth about the invasion.

Earlier this week hackers supporting the global collective Anonymous took down the websites of multiple Russian media outlets, including news agency TASS, and displayed messages showing stats for Russian army casualties and criticizing President Vladimir Putin for forcing journalists to “spread lies” about the war.

Greasing the wheels on that effort: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube have all restricted posts from Russian state media channels at the request of European governments.

A flood of enthusiastic, new volunteers, meanwhile, threatens to pull the leaders of such groups in different directions. The Cyber Partisans, a hacker group protesting the government of Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko, have seen supporters on their public Telegram channel swell to more than 60,000 in the past week.

A smaller core of working supporters number 30 people, according to their spokeswoman, while a founding group of five people carry out actual hacks like the recent railway disruption.

Broadcasting to a population – not just breaking things – has remarkable power during an armed conflict. Hacktivists who can chip away at Russia’s fake news bubble may have the greatest impact in the long run.

Why Belarus Is In Lockstep With Russia Over Ukraine

After breaking away from a crumbling Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Belarus stayed loosely aligned with Russia, unlike its neighbors. That’s changed dramatically with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Longtime President Alexander Lukashenko has allowed Belarus to be used as a staging ground even as he has so far avoided sending his own troops to join the attack, and has cleared the way to potentially host Russian nuclear weapons.

The tight embrace is payback after Russian President Vladimir Putin bankrolled his government for many years and came to Lukashenko’s aid following a disputed 2020 election which sparked a popular uprising, repression and sanctions.

1. What Role Is Belarus Playing In The War?

Belarus’s military value to Russia is its strategic position, lying just to the north of Ukraine with a common border several hundred miles long and its southern territory extending close to Kyiv. It also borders on NATO member countries Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. About 30,000 Russian troops may have been in Belarus during joint military drills in February, making it the largest military buildup there since the Cold War, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said before the exercises started. Weapons and other military equipment in the country included S-400 missile systems, the Washington Post reported. Those forces stayed on after the drills finished, paving the way for the Russian assault on Ukraine just days later.

2. What’s The Prospect For Belarus Hosting Russian Nuclear Weapons?

After the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Belarus agreed to give up nuclear warheads stationed on its soil. However, the country voted in a referendum on constitutional reform on Feb. 27 to scrap its non-nuclear and neutral status, potentially permitting it to host nuclear weapons and Russian forces. Lukashenko said he could request the return of Russian nuclear weapons to Belarus if NATO stationed nuclear weapons in Poland or Lithuania.

3. Who Is Lukashenko?

A throwback to a different era, he has led the state for almost three decades. Lukashenko, 67, has been in power since Belarus’s first presidential election as an independent republic in 1994. Belarus, which has a population of 9.3 million, used to rely on its potash exports, as well as imports of discounted Russian crude oil, which it refined and sold abroad at a profit. Now a torrent of sanctions is testing this economic model. Discontent has simmered as Lukashenko failed to diversify the cash-strapped economy. But it was the 2020 election that got people onto the streets, defying riot police and calling for strikes.

4. What Happened In The Election?

The fairness of previous landslide victories by Lukashenko had been slammed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitors elections. In 2020, key challengers to him were detained or kept off the ballot. But Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the wife of jailed opposition blogger Siarhei Tsikhanouski, was allowed to register. She drew huge crowds at rallies nationwide. So when officials declared Lukashenko had won 80% of the vote, protests erupted and Tsikhanouskaya fled to Lithuania under pressure from authorities. The upheaval continued for weeks and led to some deaths.

5. How Did The Authorities Respond To The Protests?

More than 35,000 people were detained, sparking international condemnation. In May 2021, authorities in Minsk scrambled a Mig-29 fighter jet and used a fake bomb threat to force a Ryanair plane flying from Athens to Vilnius to land in the Belarusian capital. They arrested a Belarusian passenger, journalist Raman Pratasevich, who had risen to prominence covering the 2020 protests. Three months later, Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said she was pressured to leave the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo early for criticizing sporting officials from her country and was granted refuge in Poland. EU members Poland and Lithuania, which have offered shelter to opposition figures from Belarus, accuse Lukashenko of retaliating by channeling thousands of migrants, many from the Middle East, across their border.

6. What’s Been The Response?

As with its ally Russia, the go-to tool to try to bring Belarus into line has been sanctions. Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the EU agreed to impose further restrictions on Belarus for its involvement. Trade sanctions include a ban on imports from Belarus of goods used for the production or manufacturing of tobacco products, mineral fuels, bituminous substances and gaseous hydrocarbon products, potassium chloride, wood, cement, iron and steel and rubber, according to documents seen by Bloomberg. At the same time, the EU will block exports of so-called dual-use goods and technology, which could be used by Belarus’s military. Financial sanctions announced by the U.S. and U.K. following the Russian invasion also applied to Belarus, while the EU targeted penalties at Belarusian individuals helping the Russian war effort.

7. Weren’t There Already Sanctions?

Yes. The U.S., EU and U.K. had all imposed measures on Belarus following the Ryanair incident and other developments. The EU slapped trade restrictions on petroleum products and potash fertilizers, the country’s main sources of foreign currency revenue. The U.S. also targeted the country’s Olympic committee and business leaders and companies with ties to Lukashenko. The U.K. barred Belarusian airlines from flying over Britain or landing there and also prohibited the purchase of Belarusian government bonds.

8. What Help Did Russia Offer?

Putin agreed to provide $1.5 billion in loans to the country and struck deals on oil and gas supplies following Lukashenko’s crackdown on protesters. Still, the Kremlin has been trying to reduce the financial burden of keeping afloat Belarus’s inefficient state-dominated economy. Energy subsidies that reached 19% of Belarusian gross domestic product in 2006 had plunged to less than 1% of GDP in 2020, before the election that year that sparked demonstrations and mass arrests. Putin in the past has shown little love for Lukashenko, whom Russia tried to weaken ahead of elections in 2010, but rallied to his support when the street protests erupted.

Even Currency Reserves Accumulated By Central Banks Can Be Taken Away (#GotBitcoin)

Sanctions have shown that currency reserves accumulated by central banks can be taken away. With China taking note, this may reshape geopolitics, economic management and even the international role of the U.S. dollar.

“What is money?” is a question that economists have pondered for centuries, but the blocking of Russia’s central-bank reserves has revived its relevance for the world’s biggest nations—particularly China. In a world in which accumulating foreign assets is seen as risky, military and economic blocs are set to drift farther apart.

Related:

The True Implications of Seizing Russia’s Foreign Reserves

After Moscow attacked Ukraine last week, the U.S. and its allies shut off the Russian central bank’s access to most of its $630 billion of foreign reserves. Weaponizing the monetary system against a Group-of-20 country will have lasting repercussions.

The 1997 Asian Financial Crisis scared developing countries into accumulating more funds to shield their currencies from crashes, pushing official reserves from less than $2 trillion to a record $14.9 trillion in 2021, according to the International Monetary Fund.

While central banks have lately sought to buy and repatriate gold, it only makes up 13% of their assets. Foreign currencies are 78%. The rest is positions at the IMF and Special Drawing Rights, or SDR—an IMF-created claim on hard currencies.

Many economists have long equated this money to savings in a piggy bank, which in turn correspond to investments made abroad in the real economy.

Recent events highlight the error in this thinking: Barring gold, these assets are someone else’s liability—someone who can just decide they are worth nothing. Last year, the IMF suspended Taliban-controlled Afghanistan’s access to funds and SDR. Sanctions on Iran have confirmed that holding reserves offshore doesn’t stop the U.S. Treasury from taking action.

As New England Law Professor Christine Abely points out, the 2017 settlement with Singapore’s CSE TransTel shows that the mere use of the dollar abroad can violate sanctions on the premise that some payment clearing ultimately happens on U.S. soil.

To be sure, the West has frozen Russia’s stock of foreign exchange, but hasn’t blocked the inflow of new dollars and euros. The country’s current-account surplus is estimated at $20 billion a month due to exports of oil and gas, which the U.S. and the European Union want to keep buying. While these balances go to the private sector, officials have mobilized them.

Stopping major banks like Sberbank from using dollars and excluding others from the Swift messaging system still plunges the economy into chaos, especially if foreign businesses are afraid to buy Russian energy despite the sector’s explicit exclusion from sanctions.

But hard currency will probably keep gushing in through energy-focused lenders like Gazprombank, and can theoretically be used to pay for imports and buy the ruble.

Yet the entire artifice of “money“ as a universal store of value risks being eroded by the banning of key exports to Russia and boycotts of the kind corporations like Apple and Nike announced this week.

If currency balances were to become worthless computer entries and didn’t guarantee buying essential stuff, Moscow would be rational to stop accumulating them and stockpile physical wealth in oil barrels, rather than sell them to the West. At the very least, more of Russia’s money will likely shift into gold and Chinese assets.

Indeed, the case levied against China’s attempts to internationalize the renminbi has been that, unlike the dollar, access to it is always at risk of being revoked by political considerations. It is now apparent that, to a point, this is true of all currencies.

The risk to King Dollar’s status is still limited due to most nations’ alignment with the West and Beijing’s capital controls. But financial and economic linkages between China and sanctioned countries will necessarily strengthen if those countries can only accumulate reserves in China and only spend them there.

Even nations that aren’t sanctioned may want to diversify their geopolitical risk. It seems set to further the deglobalization trend and entrench two separate spheres of technological, monetary and military power.

China itself owns $3.3 trillion in currency reserves. Unlike Russia, it cannot usefully hold them in renminbi, a currency it prints. Stockpiling commodities is an alternative. The conundrum creates another incentive for Beijing to reduce its trade surplus by reorienting its economy toward domestic consumption, though it has proven challenging.

What can investors do? For once, the old trope may not be ill advised: buy gold. Many of the world’s central banks will surely be doing it.

How Hacktivists Are Fighting Russia With Their Keyboards

 

Ukraine Is The Latest Country To Legalize Bitcoin, As The Cryptocurrency Slowly Goes Global
The Ukrainian government has been actively seeking out help from groups of hackers. But what’s the risk of Russian retaliation?

Wars are no longer just fought on battlefields or streets, but in cyberspace, too. The Ukrainian government has actively sought the help of volunteer hackers — and hundreds of thousands have answered the call. The global hacktivist collective Anonymous has meanwhile gone after Russian state media posting anti-war messages on the websites of state media channels.

Another group recently disabled EV charging stations in Russia, reprogramming them to display messages like: “Glory to Ukraine.” But what are the risks of retaliation from Russian state-backed hackers, and could this turn into a full-on cyberwar?

Parmy Olson hosted a Twitter Spaces with Bloomberg reporter Ryan Gallagher and Yuliana Shemetovets, a spokesperson for Belarusian Cyber-Partisans — a group of “hacktivists” who appear to have disrupted trains transporting Russian soldiers through Belarus. Here is a lightly edited transcription of their conversation.

Parmy Olson: Ryan, you’ve been covering hackers and hacktivism for a number of years now. What’s been your reaction to this latest activity around the Russian invasion, compared to what we’ve seen in the past?

Ryan Gallagher: There has been a real explosion in different hacktivist operations carried out, not just by Ukrainians, but by people in North America and Europe. There are parallels to the past. In 2011, the hacker collective Anonymous was launching cyberattacks on Tunisian and Egyptian government websites during the Arab Spring.

They also leaked Syrian government emails during the uprising there in 2012, which were later published by Wikileaks. So we have seen similar campaigns in the past, but this one is a bit different.

The key distinguishing feature is that Ukrainian hacktivists are supported by Ukraine itself. The government has been openly soliciting help from hacker groups to help to combat Russia’s invasion in any way they can, such as targeting critical infrastructure or banks and government websites.

They’ve been actively asking for anyone to submit cybersecurity vulnerabilities that affect Russian companies and organizations. In a sense, what we’re seeing is a government-orchestrated, crowdsourced hacktivism campaign.

Parmy: Yuliana, you’re a spokesperson for the Belarusian Cyber-Partisans. Can you tell us a little bit about the group?

Yuliana Shemetovets: Cyber Partisans is a highly organized collective, which is part of a bigger coalition called Suprativ. Cyber Partisans’ members are all Belarusian, trying to overthrow Lukashenko’s regime. They’re fighting the oppression of people in Belarus, and now they’re trying to help Ukrainians.

They’re not professional hackers, they all worked in the IT sector and only started their hacktivist work after the protests in 2020. I don’t know where they reside right now, I hope they’re not in Belarus.

Parmy: That must be a very unusual situation for you as a spokesperson. You don’t know who the founders of Cyber Partisans are, if I’m not mistaken, but you do communicate with them?

Yuliana: I’m in touch with them everyday, but yes, I don’t know exactly who they are.

Parmy: How many of them are there?

Yuliana: There are about 30 people, but all these people have different levels of access. Only the founder members actually conduct the attacks in most cases, and are the only ones who have access to the databases they obtain. Many other people provide some help with information and develop applications for safe communication in Belarus and elsewhere. Now, I know that since the war began, five more people joined and there are more people who Cyber Partisans are verifying.

Parmy: For the sake of protecting people within the group, they must be very wary of taking new members in?

Yuliana: Yes, it’s hard to trust people. A lot of KGB officers try to infiltrate the group.

Parmy: Ryan, how much do you see groups like Cyber Partisans and others coordinating with one another?

Ryan: As far as I understand it, the Cyber Partisans are collaborating with the Ukrainian hackers who are waging their own cyberattacks on the Russian government. That’s one of the difficulties some of these people are facing at the minute — how do you coordinate it? There are so many people all across the world who want to help and contribute to these hacking campaigns. Trying to do that in a coherent way is very difficult.

You also have trust issues: Someone could be presenting as a supporter of the cause, but might actually be a Russian military intelligence officer who’s trying to infiltrate your group.

Some of the people I’ve talked to try and limit it to people they can verify. They’re organizing in encrypted chat rooms. Then there are larger groups that are more publicly accessible. It’s really kind of a chaotic situation, but I’m sure we’ll see some leaked documents and emails coming out in the days and weeks ahead as a result of this sort of collective action.

Parmy: I remember Anonymous, when they were carrying out their attacks 10 years ago, were communicating on internet relay chat channels, both public and private. How are hacktivists communicating with one another today?

Ryan: People are using encrypted chat messengers such as WhatsApp and Signal. Also Telegram, which is generally understood to be less secure, but nonetheless, it’s a very popular method that people in Russia and Ukraine have used for years and continue to do so. I don’t think the hardcore hacking is being coordinated as publicly as it might have been 10 years ago. People have got savvier about information security.

Parmy: It strikes me that, for both hackers and hacktivists, a common trait is opportunism. You look for a vulnerability and if you find it, then you can exploit it and claim victory afterwards. I wonder if that’s perhaps a characteristic of the chaotic nature of some of the of the attacks that we’re seeing now. Do either of you think there needs to be more intention in some of the targets that these activists are going after?

Yuliana: We don’t know how other hacktivist groups are working, but in Cyber Partisans’ case, it’s more about strategy because the group acts as part of a larger coalition. Representatives from all three groups get together and decide what to do. For example, they might decide that the railway is a key infrastructure that will definitely be used by Russian military troops, and therefore that should be a target.

Parmy: Could you just elaborate on the larger coalition that Cyber Partisans is part of?

Yuliana: Suprativ consists of Cyber Partisans, the People’s Self-Defense Brigade and Flying Storks. It’s a political coalition. We understand that, to some extent, you can’t overthrow the regime only using computers. You need people on the ground, you need the support of the population. It’s more efficient to coordinate and to work with some other groups, political representatives and people inside the country.

Parmy: Ryan, just on that point of opportunism versus focused intention, what’s your thought on that?

Ryan: There’s obviously a lot of opportunism, because it comes down to where the vulnerabilities are and that can be quite random. Also every hacker is different. Some of them will be actively seeking vulnerabilities in systems. They have certain tools where they can scan different computer networks in order to find computers running old software which is perhaps vulnerable to attack.

Others will try and get into a target by using social engineering where they use their skills as a communicator to literally trick someone into maybe giving them a password or a username and then use that account to gain deeper access into a system.

Parmy: I do wonder about potential blowback. Given that Russian propaganda for Russian citizens is twisting a lot of the truth around sanctions and telling viewers that Russia’s being victimized and bullied by the rest of the world, what are the consequences of some of these cyber assaults that end up hurting Russian citizens? Doesn’t that only feed into that narrative?

Yuliana: In the case of Cyber Partisans, they try not to affect ordinary citizens so they don’t risk losing the support from people in Belarus. But now, there is a war and we’re fighting a really strong opponent, Russia, who has the ability to attack not only Ukraine, but other European countries, too. So in that sense, yes, it’s dangerous, but also I’ve had feedback from people in Russia and Belarus saying: “Yes, this isn’t convenient, but Ukrainians are being bombarded and dying.” So they seem willing to suffer a bit for the better cause.

Parmy: What are the risks of retaliation from Russia in all this? The Conti ransomware gang in particular came out in the last few days saying that they would retaliate against any kind of attack on Russian infrastructure. Is there a risk that there could be more tit-for-tat cyber skirmishes happening all over the place and spiraling out of control? Hacktivists and hackers are very good at hiding themselves, but corporations and other organizations are still vulnerable.

Ryan: There’s definitely concern. I’ve spoken to people in the corporate world in the last few days about this, and they are very worried about the danger of blowback. Russians have massive cyber-capability from the government side, and a huge number of criminal gangs that have always been given a safe haven in Russia over the years. These people are all quite skilled, with a lot of expertise at causing massive disruption and I don’t think they’re just going to be sitting on their hands right now. They’re going to be planning.

People have predicted some sort of cyber-apocalypse — an absolute onslaught from Russia. That hasn’t happened, but people shouldn’t be complacent because we know from history that they have a massive capability and are not afraid to use it. I do worry personally about the ramifications. We’re just at the beginning of something here and the sensible thing is to prepare for the worst, frankly.

Yuliana: We definitely should be careful, but I think the main difference between Russian soldiers and Russian hackers is that Russian soldiers, in many cases, don’t have access to the internet. They just don’t know what’s going on. Russian hackers, however, do have access. They can see what’s going on in Ukraine and I don’t know if it will work, but at at least some people might not decide to join the cyberattacks because they can see that Russia crossed a line this time.

Parmy: Can you tell us a little bit about the future for Cyber Partisans?

Yuliana: So we never discuss any future plans, but I can say that several parties are focusing on Belarus and Russian military troops in the Belarusian territory right now.

Updated: 3-3-2022

Ukraine To Plan Second War-Bond Auction To Fund Military

Ukraine plans to auction another war bond next week to raise funding for its military and its resistance to Russia’s invasion, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The government will use its regular Tuesday slot for what it calls “military bonds,” the person said, declining to be identified before the official announcement. The finance ministry confirmed the plans, issuing a market announcement that includes a one-year bond auction.

Ukraine raised 8.1 billion hryvnia ($277 million) in the first such sale earlier this week. That event drew global attention as people other than professional investors sought to buy the debt to show support for the country.

The proceeds from the auctions will go to “priority humanitarian aid needs,” which include clothes and footwear, blankets, and hospital beds, according to a document seen by Bloomberg. They’ll also fund protective gear such as helmets and bulletproof vests, as well as communication equipment and laptops.

Ukraine’s war bonds have similar characteristics to the debt it sells regularly in peacetime, and are one of a number of funding measures the country has put in place to raise money for both its armed forces and civilians.

Yuriy Butsa, Ukraine’s debt chief, told Bloomberg Television Tuesday that the government is also looking at options including foreign-currency issuance.

Officials at the debt management office are working on ways to help new investors access next week’s auction after technical issues on Tuesday.

Since the war started last week, Ukraine’s finance ministry cut off access to its website from abroad to avoid cyber attacks, making it difficult for investors to get access to information. The ministry plans to communicate with investors via its Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.

The government wants to make access easier as it taps the global swell of support for the country in its war with Russia. Crypto wallets it set up last week have already received donations totaling more than $40 million. Including an NGO that funds the military, and the figure tops $50 million.

And around the world, private citizens have rallied to the country’s side. Many in neighboring countries have offered rooms and shelter to Ukrainians fleeing the war. Meanwhile, Russia has become a commercial pariah, hit by sweeping sanctions that have crippled its markets.

Ahead of the emergency bond sale, Ukraine had been pursuing various crowdfunding initiatives, including collecting donations via bitcoin. Its central bank set up a special account last week where people around the world can donate, and the government shared details of crypto addresses to raise funds in Bitcoin and other digital tokens.

By Tuesday morning, those accounts had received more than $17 million, according to blockchain analytics firm Elliptic. Including NGOs providing support to the military, total donations amount to $24.6 million, it said.

However, those hoping that the new funds will reach Ukraine’s suffering people, or even its military, will be disappointed: the only “winners” from today’s bond auction are other, existing creditors: shortly after the bond sale was completed, the country’s debt chief Yuriy Butsa told Bloomberg TV that Ukraine has paid about $300 million of bond interest to international investors due today, in effect recycling the entire new bond issue to avoid default.

The bonds, which carry a 7.75% coupon, were issued in 2015 as part of Ukraine’s $15 billion debt restructuring, not to be confused with the debt restructuring that will have to follow in a few months when the country has no choice but to default on external creditors.

Updated: 3-4-2022

How The West Unplugged Russia From The World’s Financial Systems

Western financiers severed practically every artery of money between the country and the rest of the globe, in some cases going beyond sanctions.

Two weeks ago, Russia’s companies could sell their goods around the globe and take in investments from overseas stock-index funds. Its citizens could buy MacBooks and Toyotas at home, and freely spend their rubles abroad.

Now they are in a financial bind. Soon after Russia invaded Ukraine, another war began to isolate its economy and pressure President Vladimir Putin. The first move was made by Western governments to sanction the country’s banking system.

But over the course of the past week, the financial system took over and severed practically every artery of money between Russia and the rest of the world, in some cases going further than what was required by the sanctions.

Visa Inc. V -3.35% and Mastercard Inc. stopped processing foreign purchases for millions of Russian citizens. Apple Inc. and Google shut off their smartphone-enabled payments, stranding cashless travelers at Moscow metro stations. International firms stepped back from providing the credit and insurance that underpin trade shipments.

This unplugging of the world’s 11th-largest economy opens a new chapter in the history of economic conflict. In a world that relies on the financial system’s plumbing—clearing banks, settlement systems, messaging protocols and cross-border letters of credit—a few concerted moves can flatten a major economy.

Russia now faces a repeat of one of the most painful episodes in its post-Soviet history—the financial crisis of 1998, when its economy collapsed overnight. In the decades that followed, Russia earned its way back into the good graces of financiers in New York, London and Tokyo. It is all being undone at warp speed and will not be easily put back together.

The ruble has lost more than one-quarter of its value and is now virtually useless outside of Russia, with Western firms refusing to exchange it or process overseas transactions. Moscow’s stock exchange was closed for a fifth straight day on Friday.

The Russian Central Bank more than doubled interest rates to attract foreign investment and halt the ruble’s free fall. Two firms that are crucial to clearing securities trades, Euroclear and DTCC, said they would stop processing certain Russian transactions.

With their interest payments stuck inside the country—following the sanctions, Mr. Putin also ordered intermediaries in Russia not to pay—some Russian companies and government entities could default on their bond payments to international creditors. That could make the country toxic for investing for years.

Shares of Russian companies, even those without obvious ties to the Kremlin, were booted from stock-index funds, which will further isolate them from pools of Western capital.

Analysts expect Russia’s economy to contract as much as 20% this quarter, roughly the same hit the British economy took in the spring of 2020 during the pandemic lockdowns.

Aleksandr Iurev left Moscow eight years ago as an aspiring entrepreneur. Russia’s escalating hostility in the region made it “no place for business people,” he said from his home in New Jersey. The 36-year-old runs a mobile-app startup and this week, he can’t make payroll for the six developers who work for him in Russia because they hold personal accounts at sanctioned banks.

“It is completely shut off,” he said. He’s looking into cryptocurrency to keep his staff from bolting.

His company, Pocketfied, has other problems: Members of his marketing team in Ukraine took the week off to help build street barricades in Dnipro, in the country’s east.

The one lifeline that still connects Russia’s economy to Western markets is its supplies of energy, which European countries rely on and have been loath to cut off, especially during the winter. U.S. lawmakers are pressuring the White House to expand sanctions to include energy payments, which would sap Russia of its largest source of income, at $240 billion last year.

Even if governments don’t act, the market is speaking: Russian oil producers have had trouble finding buyers for shipments since the invasion began.

“The golden age that we had from 1945 to last week is now over,” said Gary Greenberg, head of global emerging markets at Federated Hermes, which manages $669 billion in assets. “As investors, we need to look at things differently now.”

As it dug out from the 1998 crash, Russia plugged itself into the global economy. It joined Brazil, China and India—dubbed the BRIC economies by Western investors—as the next frontier of finance.

American, British and Swiss banks courted the flood of money its oil industry produced. Russia’s biggest banks listed shares in London. One of them moved into an office across the street from the Bank of England. The Moscow exchange itself went public in 2013 with backing from U.S. and European investors.

The first signs of decoupling came in 2014, when Mr. Putin’s territorial ambitions began to stir. Western governments put limited sanctions on Russia after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine.

Russia began trying to sanction-proof its economy. It built its own domestic payments network—called Mir, Russian for “peace”—to function alongside and, if needed, replace those run by Western firms. It shifted its overseas holdings away from the U.S. and its European allies and toward China, which has been relatively more accommodating of Mr. Putin’s efforts to expand his influence and territory. It doubled its gold reserves.

Those efforts to wall itself off may prove insufficient. At least 40% of Russia’s $630 billion in foreign reserves are in countries that have joined in the latest sanctions. The rest, mostly in China, it is free to spend—but only in China. Moving those reserves out of the country would require first converting them into a Western currency like dollars or euros, which no global bank will do.

Russia, like many energy-rich countries, exports oil and gas and imports much else—automotive parts, medicines, broadcast equipment, wallpaper, fresh vegetables.

The financial journey that enables their geographical one depends on a complex web of loans, insurance policies and payments. Western banks are stepping back from trade financing, executives said, wary of the risk that their counterparty uses a sanctioned Russian bank, or has ties to a sanctioned oligarch.

Maersk, the Danish shipping giant, suspended deliveries to Russia, citing tougher terms now being demanded by financiers.

Czarnikow Group, a London-based trade-financing firm, was preparing this week to send a shipload of a specialty plastic used in soda bottles and clamshell packaging, with scheduled stops in Russia and Ukraine. On Monday, the firm got notice from its insurance provider that its policy would no longer cover the ship.

“It was obvious we weren’t going to be able to put a vessel in,” said Robin Cave, Czarnikow’s chief executive, who began looking for alternative ports and is talking to his client about where to send the cargo.

The steps taken by financial firms could close off Russia from global markets for years. Some of the largest index compilers, which maintain lists of stocks that are tracked by trillions of dollars of investments, said they would exclude Russian stocks.

The move was in part a practical decision. With the Moscow stock exchange still closed, it is impossible to assign prices to those shares. But it will ultimately damp the flow of foreign capital into Russia’s economy, said Anusha Chari, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

An increasing share of investment dollars simply tracks such collections of securities. When Russian companies fall out of the index, that money disappears, which makes it harder for those companies to raise cash in the future.

“It puts the brakes on real investment,” Ms. Chari said.

Index compilers have dropped countries from key indexes before, during periods of economic instability in places like Pakistan and Argentina. But in those cases, the decisions came after months of deliberations, said Dimitris Melas, a senior executive at MSCI Inc., which took the step Thursday.

“The speed with which events are unfolding, and the severity, made us act a lot faster,” he said.

Whether investors will be able to sell the Russian assets they hold is less clear. Norway’s largest pension fund, KLP Group, planned to unload its Russian stocks this week. With the Moscow exchange still closed, it has resorted to selling shares of companies with a dual listing in London, said Kiran Aziz, an executive at the $70 billion fund.

“The market is essentially dead” for Russian assets, said Edward Al-Hussainy, an analyst at Columbia Threadneedle Investments. For the first time he can remember, investors are telling the firm to sell—no matter the price.

Russian Crypto Volume Across Major Exchanges Plunges By 50%

Despite an increase in economic sanctions on Russia, the amount of crypto being purchased in rubles across major exchanges continues to fall.

Data from blockchain-analysis firms show that Russian denominated crypto purchasing and trading on major exchanges have faltered, debunking theories that the country will pivot to digital assets to circumvent sanctions.

When Bitcoin (BTC) rallied over 15% last week, some industry experts attributed the surge to Russians buying cryptocurrency in the face of increasing economic sanctions. This theory seems to be proved false, however, as data from Chainalysis showed that ruble-denominated crypto trading volume was just $34.1 million on Thursday, around half of a recent peak of $70.7 million a week ago on Feb. 24.

Speaking on the matter of sanctions-fueled crypto purchasing to Bloomberg, Citigroup analyst Alexander Saunders said, “Russian volumes have been relatively small so far, suggesting that the price action is more due to investors positioning for an expected uptick in demand from Russia, rather than Russian demand itself.”

Despite experts rejecting the idea that crypto could be used to help Russia skirt economic sanctions, the United States and the European Union are still increasing their regulatory scrutiny of digital assets.

Recently, New York state increased its blockchain surveillance capacities to further prevent cryptocurrencies or digital assets from being used to support Russian interests.

NY Governor Kathy Hochul issued an executive order on Feb. 27 directing state agencies to divest from Russian institutions and companies, as well as entities that provide them with support. She said:

“New York is proudly home to the nation‘s largest Ukrainian population and we will use our technological assets to protect our people and show Russia that we will hold them accountable.”

Highlighting the other side of the narrative, Jake Chervinsky, head of policy at the Blockchain Association in the U.S., went as far as to call these concerns about crypto “totally unfounded.”

Further echoing this sentiment was Ari Redbord, head of legal and government affairs at crypto crime investigator TRM Labs, stating that it’s too late for crypto assets to be able to provide enough liquidity for Russia and that the public nature of blockchains is already a sufficient deterrent for those seeking to circumvent sanctions.

In the face of looming regulatory action from the international community, many of the world’s leading crypto exchanges have decided to blacklist sanctioned individuals and organizations. Binance, however, has refused requests to censor the accounts of “innocent” Russian customers.

Moscow’s Shadow Dogged China’s Economic Links To Ukraine

Ukraine counts China as its biggest trading partner, but Beijing has been cautious on investments.

China in recent years overtook Russia as Ukraine’s biggest trading partner, but a string of frustrated deals as well as Moscow’s long shadow made Beijing cautious about sinking capital into Eastern Europe’s largest nation.

The economic interests of China play a pivotal role in the Russia-Ukraine crisis. China’s economic bonds with Russia are tight, while its inroads as an investor in Ukraine are limited, suggesting its exposure might be a secondary concern in its political calculus about the country—though Beijing will be eager for a quick end to fighting to minimize trade shocks and supply disruptions.

Ukraine sold China the hull of what became its first aircraft carrier and supplies 70% of the country’s imported sunflower oil, a cooking ingredient as important as rice.

Chinese dealers are already signaling supply disruptions of sunflower oil that could add costs to price-sensitive households. Known as the breadbasket of Europe, Ukraine also exports corn to China, along with iron ore and aircraft engines critical to China’s defense.

As trade ballooned, China has accumulated a sizable trade surplus with Ukraine by exporting manufactured goods like Huawei Technologies Co.’s telecommunication equipment, while securing subway- and port-construction work, all now threatened by the fighting.

Beijing has faced strong headwinds in its commercial dealings with Kyiv, and President Volodymyr Zelensky took some steps to counter China after his election almost three years ago, including quashing a Chinese effort to buy a major Ukrainian maker of helicopter engines. Beijing has lent little to Ukraine in the face of setbacks to infrastructure-development plans there, and late last year appeared to cut one avenue of credit.

“Ukraine has not fallen into the Chinese orbit as some other Eastern European countries did,” according to a survey of the bilateral relationship published last year by Kyiv-based think tank Centre for Economic Strategy.

A trail of ruptured high-profile deals overshadowed China-Ukraine trade that has grown robustly in recent years as Kyiv pushed away from Moscow. Russia’s 2014 takeover of Crimea was a factor in frustrating broader Chinese ambitions, but domestic Ukraine politics also deserve blame, according to the survey.

Ukraine needed economic alternatives after turning its back on Russia over the Crimea crisis, says Valbona Zeneli, a frequent visitor to Ukraine for the U.S. Defense Department-run George C. Marshall Center in Germany. “Having stronger trade ties with China reduced dependency with Russia,” she says, adding that Moscow preferred Chinese involvement to a bigger European Union role.

In deference to Moscow, Beijing left Ukraine out of a grouping of 17 Eastern European nations that in recent years drove its interaction in the region. China’s government-run lenders have committed about $1.78 billion to projects in Ukraine, or 1% of their exposure to Russia, according to 18 years of loan data analyzed by AidData, a research center at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

As Russian troops began to amass on Ukraine’s border late last year, the People’s Bank of China appeared to let lapse a $2.4 billion central-bank credit line with its counterpart, the National Bank of Ukraine, a possible sign of China’s ambivalence in its ties with Ukraine.

Neither central bank responded to questions about the three-year swap, which dated to 2012 and, like most of the 40 or so such arrangements China has around the world, had been renewed regularly in past years.

“There is precedent that geopolitics affects renewal of currency swaps,” says Steven Liao, an associate professor at the University of California, Riverside, who tracks China’s program designed to boost global use of the yuan. International Monetary Fund officials who monitor Ukraine declined to address the lapse; an official said China’s central bank in the past three years has publicly announced extension of all but six of 35 expired swap agreements.

China has frustrated Ukrainians by terming Russia’s military advance “complex” even as it turned into a war. Beijing adopted the same terminology when Russia annexed Crimea.

That annexation put Beijing in a tough spot by upsetting some planned Black Sea projects, according to Alla Hurska, an analyst at Washington-based think tank Jamestown Foundation. The war might further disrupt China’s economic activity in Ukraine, she said.

In response Monday to a question about Beijing’s commercial ties, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters, “China will continue to follow the principle of mutual respect and noninterference to develop friendly relations with Ukraine.”

After Chinese President Xi Jinping almost a decade ago mapped a grand vision to develop a modern version of the Silk Road linking China and Europe, Beijing in 2014 identified Kyiv as one of 19 cities connecting Central Asia and Western Europe.

Two years later, China launched a Trans-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor featuring railcar-toting ferries dispatched from the Ukrainian port of Odessa across the Black Sea toward rail lines to China. Around the same time, Kyiv offered Chinese citizens visa-on-arrival, and tourist numbers from China doubled in a year to 25,000 in 2016.

When Mr. Xi met Ukraine’s then-President Petro Poroshenko on the sidelines of a World Economic Forum event in Switzerland in 2017 to push his Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, China’s state news agency Xinhua said Chinese investors were in talks with Ukrainian officials about projects valued at more than $1 billion.

Investment announcements followed, but lingering effects of the Crimea annexation and fallout from a troubled 2012 grain-for-loans deal dogged the plans.

Under a template China has used in several countries, state lender Export-Import Bank of China in 2012 lent $1.5 billion to be repaid over 15 years with 80 million metric tons of grains such as corn. Shipments almost immediately fell behind, which Ukraine’s government blamed on corruption in its official granary system.

“That has had a profound chastening effect that has made state-owned Chinese lenders reluctant,” says AidData’s executive director, Brad Parks.

Local corruption allegations also torpedoed plans for Chinese participation in a light railway to Kyiv’s airport, according to Ukrainian media reports that also documented snagged port and highway plans.

One of Ukraine’s biggest exports to China has been military equipment, which data published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute shows has included gas turbines for a navy destroyer, combat vehicles and aircraft engines.

A persisting business headache for China in Ukraine involves Motor Sich JSC, a maker of precision engines for military helicopters that in the past supplied Russia and had grown reliant on China for sales.

Ukrainian officials pushed back when Motor Sich executives in 2017 sold a $3.6 billion controlling stake to Chinese investors led by a Beijing businessman named Wang Jing—best known for an ill-fated proposal to dredge a Panama Canal-like waterway through Nicaragua.

After taking office, Mr. Zelensky nationalized Motor Sich. Mr. Wang’s Beijing Skyrizon Aviation Industry Investment Co. is challenging the action at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

Food Prices Climb To Record As Ukraine War Roils Trade

* UN Index Of Food Costs Increased Almost 4% Last Month
* Crop Prices Spiked Much Higher In Recent Days On Supply Fears

Global food prices jumped to a record last month, just as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started causing chaos in global crop trading that will likely push costs up even more.

A United Nations’ index of costs was already near a peak set in 2011 before the war disrupted exports out of the Black Sea region that’s known as the world’s breadbasket. Since then, grain and vegetable-oil prices have rocketed to fresh records or multiyear highs, piling more inflationary pressure on consumers and governments and threatening to worsen a global hunger crisis.

Global crop trading has been thrown into disarray as the war shuts Ukraine’s ports, and sanctions on Russia leave traders, banks and shipowners wary of doing business there. Before Russia attacked its neighbor, food prices were already on a tear on the back of unfavorable crop weather as well as an energy crunch and expensive fertilizers.

The UN’s World Food Programme on Friday warned about the consequences that the war in Ukraine will have beyond the country’s borders.

“It’s just tragic to see hunger raising its head in what has long been the breadbasket of Europe,” WFP Executive Director David Beasley said in a statement. “The bullets and bombs in Ukraine could take the global hunger crisis to levels beyond anything we’ve seen before.”

The UN’s food price index rose almost 4% in February. Costs have surged more than 50% since mid-2020, feeding through to prices at grocery stores. Much of the rally has been underpinned by gains in vegetable oils such as palm, which is used in about half of all supermarket goods.

The UN’s February reading only partly incorporated the impacts of the invasion of Ukraine. Since then, prices of key staples have spiked to records or multiyear highs.

Russia and Ukraine play a crucial role in supplying food. Together, they account for about a quarter of all wheat and barley shipments, a fifth of corn and the bulk of sunflower oil. With big volumes of the region’s supply shut off, buyers are having to hunt elsewhere, though some importers are struggling to secure supplies in the face of high prices and few cargo offers.

Ukraine Is The Latest Country To Legalize Bitcoin, As The Cryptocurrency Slowly Goes Global

“Concerns over crop conditions and adequate export availabilities explain only a part of the current global food price increases,” Upali Galketi Aratchilage, an economist at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, said in a report. “A much bigger push for food price inflation comes from outside food production, particularly the energy, fertilizer and feed sectors.”

Grain stockpiles remain at a “comfortable” level, although those high input prices risk curbing harvests in the future, he added by phone. The food-price gains are impacting average citizens worldwide and will be hardest felt across low-income countries where groceries make up a large chunk of consumer budgets.

The FAO is making a separate assessment of how the crisis in the Black Sea region will affect products like grain and aims to release a report mid-month, Galketi Aratchilage said.

Separately, the UN boosted its estimate for global grains trade by 2.7 million tons, highlighting that demand was already running hot before the Ukraine war curtailed supplies. The outlook doesn’t yet factor in the impact of the war, but the agency predicted Ukraine and Russia still had about 32.5 million tons of wheat and corn left to ship this season.

It’s unclear how much of that will now make it to the market.

Food Prices Hit A Record And Now War Will Make It Much Worse

* Ukraine War Exacerbates Tight Supplies To Send Prices Soaring
* Ripples To Reach Supermarkets As UN Food Index Hits Record

Ukraine Is The Latest Country To Legalize Bitcoin, As The Cryptocurrency Slowly Goes Global

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shocked commodities markets and propelled prices for the ingredients of modern life to unseen heights, and in the aftermath lies a looming crisis: More people likely will go hungry.

Combat in the fertile Black Sea region, and the ensuing international pullback in doing business with Russia, is strangling trade in wheat, vegetable oils, corn and the fertilizer to grow them, and tighter supplies get more expensive by the day. Global food prices jumped to a record last month, according to the United Nations, just as war started in the world’s breadbasket.

Momentum began with the worsening energy crisis, surging freight and insurance costs, and harvest setbacks amid a pandemic. It’s now reaching supermarket shelves, with products becoming scarce and too expensive for some people. Wheat soared 40% the past week — the most ever — in Chicago trading.

“There’s only so much, especially of a product like wheat,” said Tosin Jack, commodity intelligence manager at Mintec Ltd. “Food security is not just about the accessibility but affordability as well.”

A U.N. index of costs already was near its 2011 peak before the war disrupted exports from the Black Sea region.

“The bullets and bombs in Ukraine could take the global hunger crisis to levels beyond anything we’ve seen before,” said David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme.

Grain markets breached dizzying heights the past week, with wheat skyrocketing to a 14-year high. Russia and Ukraine account for a quarter of global grains trade, and their absence leaves importers clambering to source from other places.

“All these other alternative countries might not even have enough supply for the global demand,” Jack said. “Naturally, food prices will go up.”

Global grain stockpiles have been sliding in recent years, casting doubt on their ability to cushion the blow from war. There also are concerns that the conflict will prevent farmers in the region from planting this spring.

A longer disruption to imports could make everything more expensive.

The world’s biggest buyer of wheat is Egypt, where the potential for shortages carries extra resonance because rising food costs contributed to the Arab Spring protests a decade ago. The government even may press ahead on a delicate venture: raising the price of subsidized loaves for the first time in decades.

“This is not just a crisis inside Ukraine,” Beasley said. “This is going to affect supply chains, and particularly the cost of food.”

Ukraine Says 400,000 Volunteers Aid Hacking Against Russia

* Global Volunteers Have Sought To Disrupt Russian Web Services
* Showing ‘Real Pictures Of War’ To Russian People Is A Goal

More than 400,000 people have volunteered to help a crowdsourced Ukrainian government effort that is using digital means to disrupt Russian government and military targets, according to a Ukrainian cybersecurity official.

Victor Zhora, deputy chief of Ukraine’s information protection service, said in a briefing Friday that the country was engaged in a “cyber resistance” against Russia that was aimed at making the country weaker. The update comes after Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation called on international computer specialists to attack Russian web infrastructure.

“Our friends, Ukrainians all over globe, [are] united to defend our country in cyberspace,” Zhora said. Ukraine was working to do “everything possible to protect our land in cyberspace, our networks, and to make the aggressor feel uncomfortable with their actions,” he added.

Volunteers have been working to gather intelligence, and to attack Russian military systems, Zhora said. The group has also been working to “address Russian people directly by phone calls, by emails, by messages” and “by putting texts on their services and showing real pictures of war.”

A channel on the social media app Telegram for the Ukrainian government-endorsed “IT Army” has attracted more than 283,000 members. Thousands of others have joined other Telegram groups that are orchestrating hacks targeting Russian assets.

Zhora said that the volunteer hackers were not targeting civil targets, only military. However, in recent days the Ukrainian IT Army has used Telegram to coordinate attacks against Russian banks and telecommunication companies, according to messages reviewed by Bloomberg News.

Other hacking groups, including Anonymous and the Belarusian Cyber Partisans, are similarly focused on breaching Russian targets to support Ukraine’s resistance effort. The impact of the activist groups has been limited, though a range of Russian government sites have reported network outages in recent days, according to the watchdog organization NetBlocks.

Zhora did not expressly endorse the actions of Anonymous but said that he could “understand what they are doing.”

“We do not welcome any illegal activity in cyberspace, we believe that every party should be responsible with their actions. But the world order changed on 24th of February. We have martial law here in Ukraine. And I don’t think appealing to moral principles works since our enemy doesn’t have any principles.”

Ukraine has faced its own cyberattacks both before and during the invasion. Zhora said that he believed the Russian government staged hacks in advance of the military invasion in preparation for conventional war, a claim boosted by U.S. officials.

In the hours prior to Russia’s invasion, some Ukrainian government agencies were targeted with a destructive “wiper” malware that deleted data held on infected computers. Zhora said that there have since been other attempts to spread the wiper through emails that have targeted Ukrainian citizens and government officials.

So far, Zhora said, the country’s cyber defenses were holding up well. “In my opinion, we showed Ukraine has enough capacity to resist in cyber aggression,” he said.

Moscow has denied conducting malicious activity in cyberspace.

Updated: 3-11-2022

California’s National Guard Trained Ukraine’s Military For Decades—and Now It Helps From Afar

 

Ukraine Is The Latest Country To Legalize Bitcoin, As The Cryptocurrency Slowly Goes Global

Guard members staff a 24-7 operations center in Sacramento to help soldiers in Ukraine, while retired colleagues try to aid old friends.

Inside a makeshift emergency operations center at the California National Guard headquarters in Sacramento, the calls for help have streamed in from old friends in Ukraine. Initially, the requests were for rocket launchers, radios and ammunition. Now, the need has shifted to tents and medical supplies.

California’s National Guard has been training the Ukrainian Army, Air Force and other parts of its military since the breakup of the Soviet Union through a Defense Department partnership. Members have deployed dozens of times to Ukraine over the past 30 years, many becoming close with their military counterparts and their families. During a September trip to California, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spent a day with Guard leaders and soldiers.

About a dozen soldiers have been pulled from administrative duties to staff the center, which Maj. Gen. David Baldwin activated on Feb. 27, all day and night. Taking over an office that usually houses the Guard’s Ukrainian program, the soldiers relay requests for equipment and supplies to the U.S. military’s European Command and aid groups, and share information being passed on from Ukraine with military officials.

“We have intimate knowledge and personal relationships with a lot of these guys who we worked with in Ukraine,” said Maj. Gen. Baldwin, the Guard’s top officer, who has traveled to Ukraine more than 30 times over the past 10 years. “They’re providing us with just a treasure trove of information about what’s going on in the battlefields over there, what the political situation is and what the humanitarian needs are.”

Since they are located halfway around the world, Maj. Gen. Baldwin said the most effective way for his soldiers to help is to route real-time information they are getting as quickly as possible to the specific U.S. military officials in the best position to support Ukrainians on the ground.

The relationship between the California Guard and the Ukrainian military began in 1993, when the Defense Department launched its program, pairing state national guards with the militaries of different countries in which the U.S. has a strategic interest. Many were newly formed countries after the end of the Cold War, including Slovenia, formerly part of Yugoslavia, and former Soviet republics such as Latvia.

The California Guard initially focused on teaching the military of the newly independent Ukraine how to support civilian authorities and respond to disasters—similar to the Guard’s role in the U.S.

After the overthrow of Kremlin-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, the Guard pivoted to training Ukrainian service members more for combat, including teaching anti-armor tactics and how to treat casualties.

Maj. Gen. Baldwin said he was hopeful that the Guard’s work with the Ukrainian Air Force on airfield operations, personnel recovery and fighter plane tactics, as well as training commanders on how to swiftly coordinate decisions on the battlefield, would help Ukrainians beat back Russian advances.

As the situation has grown more dire in Ukraine, current and former California Guard members are trying to keep tabs on colleagues they trained with and are now on the front lines. The media affairs chief said he texts about 10 Ukrainian military counterparts each day to make sure they are safe.

Joe Righello, who retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2017, met his Ukrainian wife in 2006 during one of his many training missions in Ukraine. His wife’s sister, husband and two daughters live in an apartment building in Kyiv and have refused to leave. Two of his wife’s friends have been killed.

“My wife has been bouncing back and forth between anger, grief and disbelief,” he said. “I’m just trying to figure out what more I can do to help.”

Feeling helpless, Mr. Righello is spending time vetting nonprofits providing aid to Ukraine and then directing friends in the U.S. to them.

He said several Ukrainian friends he worked alongside during deployments who are now in their 50s have rejoined the military to fight. Two have been wounded.

Nancy Ignatow, a retired senior master sergeant, and her husband, Bill, a retired colonel, spent the past week trying to get their former interpreter and her three daughters to safety from Lviv.

The interpreter, Natalia, worked closely with Ms. Ignatow on numerous deployments in Ukraine since the early 1990s. The Wall Street Journal agreed to use only Natalia’s first name.

The Ignatows planned an escape route through Romania and arranged for the group to stay with a friend who used to work for a Catholic charity group near Amsterdam.

Initially reluctant to split up her family, Natalia finally loaded her Suzuki Swift with her children and their dog, while her aging parents stayed behind. After four days, Ms. Ignatow watched a Facebook video that Natalia posted of her arrival in the Netherlands over and over. The couple is now working to get the family into the U.S. and to Colorado where they live.

“I felt like I could breathe and I felt like I could sleep again,” Ms. Ignatow said. “She’s the daughter we never had.”

Updated: 3-11-2022

Anonymous Releases 364,000 Files About Russia’s Censorship Of Invasion

Anonymous this week released 364,000 files from Roskomnadzor, the Russian agency that monitors and censors media.

The hack includes documents from as recent as Saturday, Distributed Denial of Secrets, or DDoSecrets, a whistleblower organization that published the files said Thursday.

Some of the documents reveal that Moscow censored all content that referred to Russia’s military action as an invasion.

“Roskomnadzor has given instructions about what can be said and ordered media outlets to delete stories that call Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an Invasion,” DDoSecrets posted online.

Today, Anonymous leaked over 800GB of data belonging to Роскомнадзор / Roskomnadzor, the Russian agency responsible for monitoring, controlling and censoring Russian mass media. #OpRussiahttps://t.co/6iVYXXoBIX— Anonymous (@YourAnonNews) March 10, 2022

Russia President Vladimir Putin on March 4 signed a new law that criminalizes the spread of information that challenges the government’s narrative regarding what it describes only as a “special military operation” instead of an invasion or war.

That led to rapid actions by Russian and foreign newsrooms to protect their reporters, including CNN ceasing its live broadcasts from Russia and the BBC suspending the work of its Russia reporter.

On the same day, the law went into effect, Russia blocked its citizens from accessing Facebook. But Russians are increasingly using virtual private networks to bypass the government’s shutdown.

In another online development, Meta (formerly known as Facebook) says that it will temporarily make allowances for some violent speech on its platform, like “death to the Russian invaders” that would normally violate its rules. But it will still prohibit violent speech against Russian civilians.

On Feb. 26, the Anonymous hacker collective said on Twitter that it had successfully taken control of Russian streaming services and TV channels, replacing state-sponsored broadcasts with “the truth about what happens in Ukraine.”

The collective also claimed credit for hacking Russia’s Internet service providers as well as leaking content from a Belarusian weapons producer.

Anonymous warned in late February that it had declared a cyberwar against Russia for invading Ukraine and targeting civilian populations across the Eastern European nation.

Updated: 3-16-2022

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy Signs Virtual Assets Bill Into Law, Legalizing Crypto

Ukraine has received $100 million in crypto donations during its war with Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy legalized crypto in the country, signing into law a bill on virtual assets, amid a frenzy of digital asset donations to support the country’s defense against a Russian invasion.

* The law determines the legal status, classification, ownership and regulators of virtual assets, as well as setting registration requirements for crypto services providers, the Ministry of Digital Transformation said in a statement Wednesday.

* The market will be regulated by Ukraine’s National Commission on Securities and the Stock Market. Exchanges will be able to operate legally, and banks will open accounts for them, the digital ministry said in a tweet.

* The state body is tasked with “shaping and pursuing a policy in the field of virtual assets; determining the order of circulation of virtual assets; issuing permits to virtual asset service providers; and carrying out supervision and financial monitoring in this area,” according to a Feb. 17 government announcement.

* Ukraine has received at least $100 million in crypto donations over the past three weeks from people who want to support its defense and help fund humanitarian efforts.

* The bill passed through parliament on Feb. 17 after Zelensky rejected an earlier version approved in September 2021.

* The Ministry of Finance is working on amendments to the country’s tax and civil codes to fully launch the market for virtual assets, the statement said.

 

Ukraine’s President Signs Law Establishing Regulatory Framework For Crypto

The country’s National Securities and Stock Market Commission will determine policies on digital assets, issue licenses to crypto firms and act as a financial watchdog.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine currently based in Kyiv, has signed a law establishing a legal framework for the country to operate a regulated crypto market.

In a Wednesday announcement, Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation said Zelenskyy signed a bill named “On Virtual Assets,” first adopted by the country’s legislature, the Verkhovna Rada, in February. Crypto exchanges and firms handling digital assets will be required to register with the government to operate legally in Ukraine, and banks will be allowed to open accounts for crypto firms.

The law endows Ukraine’s National Securities and Stock Market Commission with the power to determine the country’s policies on digital assets, issue licenses to businesses dealing with crypto and act as a financial watchdog. The government agency added that Ukraine’s Ministry of Finance was also working towards amending the country’s tax and civil codes to accommodate the legal framework for digital assets.

“The signing of this law by the president is another important step towards bringing the crypto sector out of the shadows and launching a legal market for virtual assets in Ukraine,” said the Ministry of Digital Transformation.

Cryptocurrency has become a major issue in the country’s current fight against Russia following the invasion on Feb. 24, with many donating directly to Ukraine for humanitarian causes and funding the military. At that time, the National Bank of Ukraine said that it had limited cash withdrawals at banks, fixed the foreign exchange rate of the country’s hryvnia currency and suspended the issuance of electronic money.

On Monday, Kuna, Ukraine’s largest crypto exchange, helped launch a donation platform with FTX and Kuna, staking platform Everstake, and the Ministry of Digital Transformation to allow users to send several cryptocurrencies “to support people in their fight for freedom.” According to the website, users have sent more than $54 million in crypto at the time of publication, roughly 27% of the platform’s $200 million goal.

Updated: 3-17-2022

Ukraine Law Seen Easing Crypto Donations To War-Torn Nation

* Digital Transformation Ministry Has Collected $80 Million
* Law Could Help Rebuild Post-War Economy, Bornyakov Says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s legalization of virtual assets may make it easier for the government to collect and spend cryptocurrency donations, according to Alex Bornyakov, deputy minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine.

The “About Virtual Assets” law allows the government, private citizens and companies to trade, bequeath and list everything from tokens to NFTs. It also establishes a legal framework and a licensing regime for crypto exchanges, custodians and other digital-asset businesses.

“There’s a real attention to crypto donations, and we wanted to sort it out under a legal framework,” Bornyakov said in a video interview from Ukraine. “From now on, the government can do those things officially. Then we wanted to send a strong message to all companies in the world that once we finish this war, we welcome you on Ukrainian soil.”

More than 3.1 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia attacked it on Feb. 24. Thousands of civilians have died, and news coverage shows devastation from bombing. The country once had a thriving crypto industry, with many startups hiring skilled local developers.

So far, the ministry has collected nearly $56 million in crypto donations, up from $50 million two weeks ago, Bornyakov said. The pace of donations to the fund has slackened in recent days, and the Ukrainian government launched an official site, https://donate.the digital.gov.ua/, to make people more comfortable with donating, he said.

Within several days, the site will start listing the hundreds of NFTs people have donated to the effort, and these digital assets will eventually be sold through various secondary markets, he said.

The pace of donations to the fund has slowed lately as the number of Ukrainian relief efforts has risen to about 20 to 30, Bornyakov said.

“The pace of donations is not slowing,” he said. “It exceeded our expectations, it’s far, far beyond what we expected at the beginning. It’s a matter of time before we reach $60 million or $70 million.” The ministry’s donation site is listing a $200 million goal.

The ministry has already spent about $33 million in crypto donations on a variety of items requested by the nation’s defense ministry, such as medical supplies, Bornyakov said.

Updated: 4-9-2022

‘I’ve Never Paid With Crypto Before’: How Digital Assets Make A Difference Amid A War

For many Ukrainians and Russians, digital assets have become the means to support themselves and their loved ones during the crisis.

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has become a stress test for crypto in many tangible ways. Digital assets have emerged as an effective means of directly supporting humanitarian efforts, and the crypto industry, despite enormous pressure, has largely proved itself a mature community — one ready to comply with international policies without compromising the core principles of decentralization.

But there is another vital role that crypto has filled during these tragic events: It is becoming more and more familiar to those who have found themselves cut off from the payment systems that had once seemed unfailing.

Traditional financial infrastructures don’t usually work well during military confrontations and humanitarian crises. From hyperinflation and cash shortages to the destruction of ATMs, crises can disrupt the banking system’s ability to function and threaten the money supply for millions of regular individuals.

Cointelegraph spoke with some of the people who experienced these disruptions firsthand during the first days and weeks of the war. Some of them didn’t know much about crypto and had to learn fast, while others were lucky to have had some experience with digital assets that they could fall back on.

Some of these people are from Ukraine and have directly experienced the struggles of war, while others are from Russia and had to leave the country as their ordinary lives collapsed overnight. Their stories reveal that when the world comes crashing down, it is ordinary people for whom crypto provides the last line of support, not the corrupt elites.

“Crypto was originally created so that no single government or individual could control it”

Viktoria Fox is a Ukrainian-American entrepreneur who is the founder and CEO of Polaris Capital, a cryptocurrency mining company. Her parents moved from Ukraine to the United States during the tumult of the post-Soviet Union 1990s. When the war broke out on Feb. 24, her U.S. family started receiving uneasy phone calls from their relatives in Ukraine.

As Russian troops advanced into the country, the National Bank of Ukraine immediately stopped the circulation of all securities and limited cash withdrawals, creating a nationwide frenzy.

Although the central bank claimed that banking and financial systems remained “resilient” following the Russian invasion, Fox’s relatives told a different story from the ground:

“What I’ve been told is that banks are closed and all ATM machines have no more cash. After two weeks of war, my relatives, like most families, were completely out of cash.”

Since then, Fox has been sending them Bitcoin (BTC), which started to function as a cash substitute for vendors and fellow citizens — a means to pay for almost anything from food to taxis. Viktoria’s uncle used Bitcoin to compensate a driver who traveled six hours to get him from Kharkiv to the Western part of the country.

In Fox’s experience, most Ukrainians prefer to transact via established global exchanges such as Coinbase and Binance, though some rely on Ukrainian exchanges as well.

“I think it’s important to remember that crypto, particularly Bitcoin, was originally created so that no single government or individual could control it,” Fox noted. “While it would be tempting to punish the ‘bad’ Russians and reward innocent Ukrainian civilians, it defeats the whole purpose of a decentralized currency or asset.”

She doesn’t believe that tightening government control over crypto would help ordinary people during this or any future war.

“For me, as an anarchist, it was a matter of ideological choice, not of comfort”

Until several weeks ago, “Andrey” lived in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg, where he was born. Andrey is a front-end developer and has some professional experience with blockchain platforms. “I probably couldn’t write a smart contract, but I sure know how to use crypto in daily financial operations,” he said.

“I have experience withdrawing USDT here and there, and I never did it through bank cards. For me, as an anarchist, it was a matter of ideological choice, not of comfort.”

As Andrey headed for Berlin on the fourth day of the war, the entirety of his belongings consisted of a laptop, a pair of t-shirts and a hardware wallet holding some hard-earned stablecoins:

“I had to use them to buy plane tickets to travel inside Europe. The last thing I managed to do with my Visa card was to rent a flat on Airbnb for two weeks. I was lucky enough to have a bunch of friends in Europe, and now they help me to pay with cards when necessary. I just send them the coins.”

In the long run, Andrey admitted that he still needs fiat to buy groceries and other necessities. He has yet to learn the peer-to-peer withdrawal tools available in Europe. Still, he regards the decision to get a hardware wallet for crypto as one of the smartest moves in his life. “It’s not like I was preparing for something like this, but, you know, when living under authoritarianism, you’d better be independent of the local banks.”

Andrey Admitted That Withdrawing Crypto In A New Jurisdiction Could Pose A Major Problem As Well. He Said:

“Despite my overall knowledge of the industry, right now I’m in a difficult position. In Germany, very stringent requirements are applied to cash withdrawals, and I’m still researching the ways to do it.”

It is not only about personal needs. Andrey is a Russian citizen whose father was born and raised in the south of Ukraine. He doesn’t have a legal way to donate money to support the relief effort for Ukrainian civilians — such an act could be considered a criminal offense or even high treason by the government. Andrey noted:

“Like many others in Russia, I have friends in Ukraine. Some of them are in Kyiv now, sleeping in bomb shelters under artillery fire. My problems are nothing compared to theirs. To help them, I had to find someone on the ground who would agree to exchange my USDT for hryvnias [Ukraine’s currency]. After I made sure my friends’ banking cards worked, I used this opportunity. The sum wasn’t huge, but I hope it was at least some help.”

“We could not receive international transfers to Ukrainian accounts”

Anna Shakola, a native of Kyiv, began to work as an NFT project manager at Cointelegraph in November 2021, several months before the war broke out. She had not used crypto as a payment method until the crisis began: “Honestly, I had never paid by crypto, except for transacting in NFTs. I used these assets only as an investment tool.”

Shakola had to learn fast, as during the first three weeks of the war, the fiat financial system was partially frozen: “We could not receive international transfers to Ukrainian accounts and had some problems with domestic fiat transfers as well.”

After becoming accustomed to performing everyday transactions using digital currencies, she learned about Unchain, a charitable project founded by Ukrainian blockchain activists.

Unchain began to channel donations to Ukrainian civilians on Feb. 27, after a network of local crypto-fiat exchanges supported the initiative. The next step was to issue virtual debit gift cards known as “Help Cards” in cooperation with Kyiv-based Unex Bank and Weld Money.

The cards are designed to help families — mothers and children — who might not have the time to learn to use crypto in the middle of a war. Unchain accepts donations in crypto and converts them to hryvnias on the receiver’s end. It plans to finance up to 10,000 Help Cards.

The war has undoubtedly shattered the global economic order, and it has also become a profound stress test for the crypto industry. Despite suspicions that digital assets could undermine the international sanctions regime, they have emerged freshly branded as a resilient, flexible payments system with the potential to help millions of people on their hardest day.

It’s no accident that the Ukrainian government has championed measures that would develop its digital economy after the war. On March 16, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a law to build a legal framework for the country to establish a regulated crypto market.

Given the need to rebuild the country once the hostilities are over, the nation’s hard-earned experience with crypto will likely be instrumental in developing a thriving digital economy.

 

 

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Reality Show Is Casting Crypto Users Locked Out Of Their Wallets

EA, Other Videogame Companies Target Mobile Gaming As Pandemic Wanes

Strike To Offer ‘No Fee’ Bitcoin Trading, Taking Aim At Coinbase And Square

Coinbase Reveals Plans For Crypto App Store Amid Global Refocus

Mexico May Not Be Following El Salvador’s Example On Bitcoin… Yet

What The Crypto Crowd Doesn’t Understand About Economics

My Local Crypto Space Just Got Raided By The Feds. You Know The Feds Scared Of Crypto

My Local Crypto Space Just Got Raided By The Feds. You Know The Feds Scared Of Crypto

Bitcoin Slumps Toward Another ‘Crypto Winter’

NYC’s Mayoral Frontrunner Pledges To Turn City Into Bitcoin Hub

Lyn Alden On Bitcoin, Inflation And The Potential Coming Energy Shock

$71B In Crypto Has Reportedly Passed Through ‘Blockchain Island’ Malta Since 2017

Startups Race Microsoft To Find Better Ways To Cool Data Centers

Why PCs Are Turning Into Giant Phones

Panama To Present Crypto-Related Bill In July

Hawaii Had Largest Increase In Demand For Crypto Out Of US States This Year

What To Expect From Bitcoin As A Legal Tender

Petition: Satoshi Nakamoto Should Receive The Nobel Peace Prize

Can Bitcoin Turbo-Charge The Asset Management Industry?

Bitcoin Interest Drops In China Amid Crackdown On Social Media And Miners

Multi-trillion Asset Manager State Street Launches Digital Currency Division

Wall Street’s Crypto Embrace Shows In Crowd At Miami Conference

MIT Bitcoin Experiment Nets 13,000% Windfall For Students Who Held On

Petition: Let’s Make Bitcoin Legal Tender For United States of America

El Salvador Plans Bill To Adopt Bitcoin As Legal Tender

What Is Dollar Cost Averaging Bitcoin?

Paxful Launches Tool Allowing Businesses To Receive Payment In Bitcoin

CEOs Of Top Russian Banks Sberbank And VTB Blast Bitcoin

President of El Salvador Says He’s Submitting Bill To Make Bitcoin Legal Tender

Bitcoin Falls As Weibo Appears To Suspend Some Crypto Accounts

Israel-Gaza Conflict Spurs Bitcoin Donations To Hamas

Bitcoin Bond Launch Brings Digital Currency Step Closer To ‘World Of High Finance’

Worst Month For BTC Price In 10 Years: 5 Things To Watch In Bitcoin

Networks vs. Governments: Could Crypto-Powered Digital Communities Challenge the Power of Cities and States?

Bitcoin Card Game Bitopoly Launches

Carbon-Neutral Bitcoin Funds Gain Traction As Investors Seek Greener Crypto

Ultimate Resource On The Bitcoin Mining Council

Libertarian Activists Launch Bitcoin Embassy In New Hampshire

Why The Bitcoin Crash Was A Big Win For Cryptocurrencies

Treasury Calls For Crypto Transfers Over $10,000 To Be Reported To IRS

Crypto Traders Can Automate Legal Requests With New DoNotPay Services

Bitcoin Marches Away From Crypto Pack In Show of Resiliency

NBA Top Shot Lawsuit Says Dapper’s NFTs Need SEC Clampdown

Maximalists At The Movies: Bitcoiners Crowdfunding Anti-FUD Documentary Film

Caitlin Long Reveals The ‘Real Reason’ People Are Selling Crypto

Microsoft Quietly Closing Down Azure Blockchain In September

How Much Energy Does Bitcoin Actually Consume?

Bitcoin Should Be Priced In Sats And How Do We Deliver This Message

Bitcoin Loses 6% In An Hour After Tesla Drops Payments Over Carbon Concerns

Crypto Twitter Decodes Why Zuck Really Named His Goats ‘Max’ And ‘Bitcoin’

Bitcoin Pullback Risk Rises As Whales Resume Selling

Thiel-Backed Block.one Injects Billions In Crypto Exchange

Sequoia, Tiger Global Boost Crypto Bet With Start-up Lender Babel

Here’s How To Tell The Difference Between Bitcoin And Ethereum

In Crypto, Sometimes The Best Thing You Can Do Is Nothing

Crypto Community Remembers Hal Finney’s Contributions To Blockchain On His 65Th Birthday

DJ Khaled ft. Nas, JAY-Z & James Fauntleroy And Harmonies Rap Bitcoin Wealth

The Two Big Themes In The Crypto Market Right Now

Crypto Could Still Be In Its Infancy, Says T. Rowe Price’s CEO

Governing Body Of Louisiana Gives Bitcoin Its Nod Of Approval

Sports Athletes Getting Rich From Bitcoin

Behind Bitcoin’s Recent Slide: Imploding Bets And Forced Liquidations

Bad Omen? US Dollar And Bitcoin Are Both Slumping In A Rare Trend

Wall Street Starts To See Weakness Emerge In Bitcoin Charts

Crypto For The Long Term: What’s The Outlook?

Mix of Old, Wrong And Dubious ‘News/FUD’ Scares Rookie Investors, Fuels Crypto Selloff

Wall Street Pays Attention As Bitcoin Market Cap Nears The Valuation Of Google

Bitcoin Price Drops To $52K, Liquidating Almost $10B In Over-Leveraged Longs

Bitcoin Funding Rates Crash To Lowest Levels In 7 Months, Peak Fear?

Investors’ On-Chain Activity Hints At Bitcoin Price Cycle Top Above $166,000

This Vegan Billionaire Disrupted The Crypto Markets. Now He Wants To Tokenize Stocks

Texas Crypto Law Proposal Has One Major Flaw In Regards To Bitcoin Loans/Liens Says Caitlin Long, CEO

Black Americans Are Embracing Bitcoin To Make Up For Stolen Time

Rap Icon Nas Could Net $100M When Coinbase Lists on Nasdaq

The First Truly Native Cross-Chain DEX Is About To Go Live

Reminiscing On Past ‘Bitcoin Faucet’ Website That Gave Away 19,700 BTC For Free

Bitcoin Nears Record Before Largest U.S. Crypto Exchange Coinbase Nears $100 Billion Valuation Listing

3X As Many Crypto Figures Make It Onto Forbes 2021 Billionaires List As Last Year

Bubble Or A Drop In The Ocean? Putting Bitcoin’s $1 Trillion Milestone Into Perspective

Pension Funds And Insurance Firms Alive To Bitcoin Investment Proposal

Here’s Why April May Be The Best Month Yet For Bitcoin Price

Blockchain-Based Renewable Energy Marketplaces Gain Traction In 2021

Crypto Firms Got More Funding Last Quarter Than In All of 2020

Government-Backed Bitcoin Hash Wars Will Be The New Space Race

Lars Wood On Enhanced SAT Solvers Based Hashing Method For Bitcoin Mining

Morgan Stanley Adds Bitcoin Exposure To 12 Investment Funds

One BTC Will Be Worth A Lambo By 2022, And A Bugatti By 2023: Kraken CEO

Rocketing Bitcoin Price Provides Refuge For The Brave

Bitcoin Is 3rd Largest World Currency

Does BlockFi’s Risk Justify The Reward?

Crypto Media Runs With The Bulls As New Entrants Compete Against Established Brands

Bitcoin’s Never-Ending Bubble And Other Mysteries

The Last Dip Is The Deepest As Wife Leaves Husband For Buying More Bitcoin

Blockchain.com Raises $300 Million As Investors Find Other Ways Into Bitcoin

Crypto Kids Camp

What Is BitClout? The Social Media Experiment Sparking Controversy On Twitter

Bitcoin Searches In Turkey Spike 566% After Turkish Lira Drops 14%

Crypto Is Banned In Morocco, But Bitcoin Purchases Are Soaring

Bitcoin Can Be Sent With A Tweet As Bottlepay Twitter App Goes Live

Rise of Crypto Market’s Quiet Giants Has Big Market Implications

Canadian Property Firm Buys Bitcoin In Hopes Of Eventually Scrapping Condo Fees

Bitcoin Price Gets Fed Boost But Bond Yields Could Play Spoilsport: Analysts

Bank of America Claims It Costs Just $93 Million To Move Bitcoin’s Price By 1%

Would A US Wealth Tax Push Millionaires To Bitcoin Adoption?

NYDIG Head Says Major Firms Will Announce Bitcoin ‘Milestones’ Next Week

Signal Encrypted Messenger Now Accepts Donations In Bitcoin

Bitcoin Is Now Worth More Than Visa And Mastercard Combined

Retail Bitcoin Customers Rival Wall Street Buyers As Mania Builds

Crypto’s Rising. So Are The Stakes For Governments Everywhere

Bitcoin Falls After Weekend Rally Pushes Token To Fresh Record

Oakland A’s Major League Baseball Team Now Accepts Bitcoin For Suites

Students In Georgia Set To Be Taught About Crypto At High School

What You Need To Know About Bitcoin Now

Bitcoin Winning Streak Now At 7 Days As Fresh Stimulus Keeps Inflation Bet Alive

Bitcoin Intraday Trading Pattern Emerges As Institutions Pile In

If 60/40 Recipe Sours, Maybe Stir In Some Bitcoin

Explaining Bitcoin’s Speculative Attack On The Dollar

VIX-Like Gauge For Bitcoin Sees Its First-Ever Options Trade

A Utopian Vision Gets A Blockchain Twist In Nevada

Crypto Influencers Scramble To Recover Twitter Accounts After Suspensions

Bitcoin Breaks Through $57,000 As Risk Appetite Revives

Analyzing Bitcoin’s Network Effect

US Government To Sell 0.7501 Bitcoin Worth $38,000 At Current Prices

Pro Traders Avoid Bitcoin Longs While Cautiously Watching DXY Strengthen

Bitcoin Hits Highest Level In Two Weeks As Big-Money Bets Flow

OG Status In Crypto Is A Liability

Bridging The Bitcoin Gender Gap: Crypto Lets Everyone Access Wealth

HODLing Early Leads To Relationship Troubles? Redditors Share Their Stories

Want To Be Rich? Bitcoin’s Limited Supply Cap Means You Only Need 0.01 BTC

You Can Earn 6%, 8%, Even 12% On A Bitcoin ‘Savings Account’—Yeah, Right

Egyptians Are Buying Bitcoin Despite Prohibitive New Banking Laws

Is March Historically A Bad Month For Bitcoin?

Suze Orman: ‘I love Bitcoin’

Bitcoin Falls 4% As Fed’s Powell Sees ‘Concern’ Over Rising Bond Yields

US Retailers See Millions In Lost Sales Due To Port Congestion, Shortage Of Containers

Pandemic-Relief Aid Boosts Household Income Which Causes Artificial Economic Stimulus

YouTube Suspends CoinDesk’s Channel Over Unspecified Violations

It’s Gates Versus Musk As World’s Richest Spar Over Bitcoin

Charlie Munger Is Sure Bitcoin Will Fail To Become A Global Medium Of Exchange

Bitcoin Is Minting Thousands Of Crypto ‘Diamond Hands’ Millionaires Complete W/Laser Eyes

Federal Reserve’s Wire & ACH Systems Go Down, Visa & Mastercard Raise Fees, Meanwhile, Bitcoin Works Just Fine

Dubai’s IBC Group Pledges 100,000 Bitcoin ($4.8 Billion) 20% Of All Bitcoin, Largest So Far

Bitcoin’s Value Is All In The Eye Of The ‘Bithodler’

Bitcoin Is Hitting Record Highs. Why It’s Not Too Late To Dig For Digital Gold

$56.3K Bitcoin Price And $1Trillion Market Cap Signal BTC Is Here To Stay

Christie’s Auction House Will Now Accept Cryptocurrency

Why A Chinese New Year Bitcoin Sell-Off Did Not Happen This Year

The US Federal Reserve Will Adopt Bitcoin As A Reserve Asset

Motley Fool Adding $5M In Bitcoin To Its ‘10X Portfolio’ — Has A $500K Price Target

German Cannabis Company Hedges With Bitcoin In Case Euro Crashes

Bitcoin: What To Know Before Investing

China’s Cryptocurrency Stocks Left Behind In Bitcoin Frenzy

Bitcoin’s Epic Run Is Winning More Attention On Wall Street

Bitcoin Jumps To $50,000 As Record-Breaking Rally Accelerates

Bitcoin’s Volatility Should Burn Investors. It Hasn’t

Bitcoin’s Latest Record Run Is Less Volatile Than The 2017 Boom

Blockchain As A Replacement To The MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration System)

The Ultimate Resource On “PriFi” Or Private Finance

Deutsche Bank To Offer Bitcoin Custody Services

BeanCoin Currency Casts Lifeline To Closed New Orleans Bars

Bitcoin Could Enter ‘Supercycle’ As Fed Balance Sheet Hits New Record High

Crypto Mogul Bets On ‘Meme Investing’ With Millions In GameStop

Iran’s Central Banks Acquires Bitcoin Even Though Lagarde Says Central Banks Will Not Hold Bitcoin

Bitcoin To Come To America’s Oldest Bank, BNY Mellon

Tesla’s Bitcoin-Equals-Cash View Isn’t Shared By All Crypto Owners

How A Lawsuit Against The IRS Is Trying To Expand Privacy For Crypto Users

Apple Should Launch Own Crypto Exchange, RBC Analyst Says

Bitcoin Hits $43K All-Time High As Tesla Invests $1.5 Billion In BTC

Bitcoin Bounces Off Top of Recent Price Range

Top Fiat Currencies By Market Capitalization VS Bitcoin

Bitcoin Eyes $50K Less Than A Month After BTC Price Broke Its 2017 All-Time High

Investors Piling Into Overvalued Crypto Funds Risk A Painful Exit

Parents Should Be Aware Of Their Children’s Crypto Tax Liabilities

Miami Mayor Says City Employees Should Be Able To Take Their Salaries In Bitcoin

Bitcoiners Get Last Laugh As IBM’s “Blockchain Not Bitcoin” Effort Goes Belly-up

Bitcoin Accounts Offer 3-12% Rates In A Low-Interest World

Analyst Says Bitcoin Price Sell-Off May Occur As Chinese New Year Approaches

Why The Crypto World Needs To Build An Amazon Of Its Own

Tor Project’s Crypto Donations Increased 23% In 2020

Social Trading Platform eToro Ended 2020 With $600M In Revenue

Bitcoin Billionaire Set To Run For California Governor

GameStop Investing Craze ‘Proof of Concept’ For Bitcoin Success

Bitcoin Entrepreneurs Install Mining Rigs In Cars. Will Trucks And Tractor Trailers Be Next?

Harvard, Yale, Brown Endowments Have Been Buying Bitcoin For At Least A Year

Bitcoin Return To $40,000 In Doubt As Flows To Key Fund Slow

Ultimate Resource For Leading Non-Profits Focused On Policy Issues Facing Cryptocurrencies

Regulate Cryptocurrencies? Not Yet

Check Out These Cryptocurrency Clubs And Bitcoin Groups!

Blockchain Brings Unicorns To Millennials

Crypto-Industry Prepares For Onslaught Of Public Listings

Bitcoin Core Lead Maintainer Steps Back, Encourages Decentralization

Here Are Very Bitcoiny Ways To Get Bitcoin Exposure

To Understand Bitcoin, Just Think of It As A Faith-Based Asset

Cryptos Won’t Work As Actual Currencies, UBS Economist Says

Older Investors Are Getting Into Crypto, New Survey Finds

Access Denied: Banks Seem Prone To Cryptophobia Despite Growing Adoption

Pro Traders Buy The Dip As Bulls Address A Trifecta Of FUD News Announcements

Andreas Antonopoulos And Others Debunk Bitcoin Double-Spend FUD

New Bitcoin Investors Explain Why They’re Buying At Record Prices

When Crypto And Traditional Investors Forget Fundamentals, The Market Is Broken

First Hyperledger-based Cryptocurrency Explodes 486% Overnight On Bittrex BTC Listing

Bitcoin Steady As Analysts Say Getting Back To $40,000 Is Key

Coinbase, MEVP Invest In Crypto-Asset Startup Rain

Synthetic Dreams: Wrapped Crypto Assets Gain Traction Amid Surging Market

Secure Bitcoin Self-Custody: Balancing Safety And Ease Of Use

Voyager Crypto App Review

UBS (A Totally Corrupt And Criminal Bank) Warns Clients Crypto Prices Can Actually Go To Zero

Bitcoin Swings Undermine CFO Case For Converting Cash To Crypto

CoinLab Cuts Deal With Mt. Gox Trustee Over Bitcoin Claims

Bitcoin Slides Under $35K Despite Biden Unveiling $1.9 Trillion Stimulus

Bitcoin Refuses To ‘Die’ As BTC Price Hits $40K Just Three Days After Crash

Ex-Ripple CTO Can’t Remember Password To Access $240M In Bitcoin

Financial Advisers Are Betting On Bitcoin As A Hedge

ECB President Christine Lagarde (French Convict) Says, Bitcoin Enables “Funny Business.”

German Police Shut Down Darknet Marketplace That Traded Bitcoin

Bitcoin Miner That’s Risen 1,400% Says More Regulation Is Needed

Bitcoin Rebounds While Leaving Everyone In Dark On True Worth

UK Treasury Calls For Feedback On Approach To Cryptocurrency And Stablecoin Regulation

What Crypto Users Need Know About Changes At The SEC

Where Does This 28% Bitcoin Price Drop Rank In History? Not Even In The Top 5

Seven Times That US Regulators Stepped Into Crypto In 2020

Retail Has Arrived As Paypal Clears $242M In Crypto Sales Nearly Double The Previous Record

Bitcoin’s Slide Dents Price Momentum That Dwarfed Everything

Does Bitcoin Boom Mean ‘Better Gold’ Or Bigger Bubble?

Bitcoin Whales Are Profiting As ‘Weak Hands’ Sell BTC After Price Correction

Crypto User Recovers Long-Lost Private Keys To Access $4M In Bitcoin

The Case For And Against Investing In Bitcoin

Bitcoin’s Wild Weekends Turn Efficient Market Theory Inside Out

Mega-Bullish News For Bitcoin As Elon Musk Says, “Pay Me In Bitcoin” And Biden Says, “Ignore Budget Deficits”!

Bitcoin Price Briefly Surpasses Market Cap Of Tencent

Broker Touts Exotic Bitcoin Bet To Squeeze Income From Crypto

Broker Touts Exotic Bitcoin Bet To Squeeze Income From Crypto

Tesla’s Crypto-Friendly CEO Is Now The Richest Man In The World

Crypto Market Cap Breaks $1 Trillion Following Jaw-Dropping Rally

Gamblers Could Use Bitcoin At Slot Machines With New Patent

Crypto Users Donate $400K To Julian Assange Defense As Mexico Proposes Asylum

Grayscale Ethereum Trust Fell 22% Despite Rally In Holdings

Bitcoin’s Bulls Should Fear Its Other Scarcity Problem

Ether Follows Bitcoin To Record High Amid Dizzying Crypto Rally

Retail Investors Are Largely Uninvolved As Bitcoin Price Chases $40K

Bitcoin Breaches $34,000 As Rally Extends Into New Year

Social Media Interest In Bitcoin Hits All-Time High

Bitcoin Price Quickly Climbs To $31K, Liquidating $100M Of Shorts

How Massive Bitcoin Buyer Activity On Coinbase Propelled BTC Price Past $32K

FinCEN Wants US Citizens To Disclose Offshore Crypto Holdings of $10K+

Governments Will Start To Hodl Bitcoin In 2021

Crypto-Linked Stocks Extend Rally That Produced 400% Gains

‘Bitcoin Liquidity Crisis’ — BTC Is Becoming Harder To Buy On Exchanges, Data Shows

Bitcoin Looks To Gain Traction In Payments

BTC Market Cap Now Over Half A Trillion Dollars. Major Weekly Candle Closed!!

Elon Musk And Satoshi Nakamoto Making Millionaires At Record Pace

Binance Enables SegWit Support For Bitcoin Deposits As Adoption Grows

Santoshi Nakamoto Delivers $24.5K Christmas Gift With Another New All-Time High

Bitcoin’s Rally Has Already Outlasted 2017’s Epic Run

Gifting Crypto To Loved Ones This Holiday? Educate Them First

Scaramucci’s SkyBridge Files With SEC To Launch Bitcoin Fund

Samsung Integrates Bitcoin Wallets And Exchange Into Galaxy Phones

HTC Smartphone Will Run A Full Bitcoin Node (#GotBitcoin?)

HTC’s New 5G Router Can Host A Full Bitcoin Node

Bitcoin Miners Are Heating Homes Free of Charge

Bitcoin Miners Will Someday Be Incorporated Into Household Appliances

Musk Inquires About Moving ‘Large Transactions’ To Bitcoin

How To Invest In Bitcoin: It Can Be Easy, But Watch Out For Fees

Megan Thee Stallion Gives Away $1 Million In Bitcoin

CoinFLEX Sets Up Short-Term Lending Facility For Crypto Traders

Wall Street Quants Pounce On Crytpo Industry And Some Are Not Sure What To Make Of It

Bitcoin Shortage As Wall Street FOMO Turns BTC Whales Into ‘Plankton’

Bitcoin Tops $22,000 And Strategists Say Rally Has Further To Go

Why Bitcoin Is Overpriced by More Than 50%

Kraken Exchange Will Integrate Bitcoin’s Lightning Network In 2021

New To Bitcoin? Stay Safe And Avoid These Common Scams

Andreas M. Antonopoulos And Simon Dixon Say Don’t Buy Bitcoin!

Famous Former Bitcoin Critics Who Conceded In 2020

Jim Cramer Bought Bitcoin While ‘Off Nicely From The Top’ In $17,000S

The Wealthy Are Jumping Into Bitcoin As Stigma Around Crypto Fades

WordPress Adds Official Ethereum Ad Plugin

France Moves To Ban Anonymous Crypto Accounts To Prevent Money Laundering

10 Predictions For 2021: China, Bitcoin, Taxes, Stablecoins And More

Movie Based On Darknet Market Silk Road Premiering In February

Crypto Funds Have Seen Record Investment Inflow In Recent Weeks

US Gov Is Bitcoin’s Last Remaining Adversary, Says Messari Founder

$1,200 US Stimulus Check Is Now Worth Almost $4,000 If Invested In Bitcoin

German Bank Launches Crypto Fund Covering Portfolio Of Digital Assets

World Governments Agree On Importance Of Crypto Regulation At G-7 Meeting

Why Some Investors Get Bitcoin So Wrong, And What That Says About Its Strengths

It’s Not About Data Ownership, It’s About Data Control, EFF Director Says

‘It Will Send BTC’ — On-Chain Analyst Says Bitcoin Hodlers Are Only Getting Stronger

Bitcoin Arrives On Wall Street: S&P Dow Jones Launching Crypto Indexes In 2021

Audio Streaming Giant Spotify Is Looking Into Crypto Payments

BlackRock (Assets Under Management $7.4 Trillion) CEO: Bitcoin Has Caught Our Attention

Bitcoin Moves $500K Around The Globe Every Second, Says Samson Mow

Pomp Talks Shark Tank’s Kevin O’leary Into Buying ‘A Little More’ Bitcoin

Bitcoin Is The Tulipmania That Refuses To Die

Ultimate Resource On Ethereum 2.0

Biden Should Integrate Bitcoin Into Us Financial System, Says Niall Ferguson

Bitcoin Is Winning The Monetary Revolution

Cash Is Trash, Dump Gold, Buy Bitcoin!

Bitcoin Price Sets New Record High Above $19,783

You Call That A Record? Bitcoin’s November Gains Are 3x Stock Market’s

Bitcoin Fights Back With Power, Speed and Millions of Users

Guggenheim Fund ($295 Billion Assets Under Management) Reserves Right To Put Up To 10% In Bitcoin Trust!

Exchanges Outdo Auctions For Governments Cashing In Criminal Crypto, Says Exec

Coinbase CEO: Trump Administration May ‘Rush Out’ Burdensome Crypto Wallet Rules

Bitcoin Plunges Along With Other Coins Providing For A Major Black Friday Sale Opportunity

The Most Bullish Bitcoin Arguments For Your Thanksgiving Table

‘Bitcoin Tuesday’ To Become One Of The Largest-Ever Crypto Donation Events

World’s First 24/7 Crypto Call-In Station!!!

Bitcoin Trades Again Near Record, Driven By New Group Of Buyers

Friendliest Of Them All? These Could Be The Best Countries For Crypto

Bitcoin Price Doubles Since The Halving, With Just 3.4M Bitcoin Left For Buyers

First Company-Sponsored Bitcoin Retirement Plans Launched In US

Poker Players Are Enhancing Winnings By Cashing Out In Bitcoin

Crypto-Friendly Brooks Gets Nod To Serve 5-Year Term Leading Bank Regulator

The Bitcoin Comeback: Is Crypto Finally Going Mainstream?

The Dark Future Where Payments Are Politicized And Bitcoin Wins

Mexico’s 3rd Richest Man Reveals BTC Holdings As Bitcoin Breaches $18,000

Ultimate Resource On Mike Novogratz And Galaxy Digital’s Bitcoin News

Bitcoin’s Gunning For A Record And No One’s Talking About It

Simple Steps To Keep Your Crypto Safe

US Company Now Lets Travelers Pay For Passports With Bitcoin

Billionaire Hedge Fund Investor Stanley Druckenmiller Says He Owns Bitcoin In CNBC Interview

China’s UnionPay And Korea’s Danal To Launch Crypto-Supporting Digital Card #GotBitcoin

Bitcoin Is Back Trading Near Three-Year Highs

Bitcoin Transaction Fees Rise To 28-Month High As Hashrate Drops Amid Price Rally

Market Is Proving Bitcoin Is ‘Ultimate Safe Haven’ — Anthony Pompliano

3 Reasons Why Bitcoin Price Suddenly Dropping Below $13,000 Isn’t Bearish

Bitcoin Resurgence Leaves Institutional Acceptance Unanswered

Bitcoin’s Rivalry With Gold Plus Millennial Interest Gives It ‘Considerable’ Upside Potential: JPMorgan

WordPress Content Can Now Be Timestamped On Ethereum

PayPal To Offer Crypto Payments Starting In 2021 (A-Z) (#GotBitcoin?)

As Bitcoin Approaches $13,000 It Breaks Correlation With Equities

Crypto M&A Surges Past 2019 Total As Rest of World Eclipses U.S. (#GotBitcoin?)

How HBCUs Are Prepping Black Students For Blockchain Careers

Why Every US Congressman Just Got Sent Some ‘American’ Bitcoin

CME Sounding Out Crypto Traders To Gauge Market Demand For Ether Futures, Options

Caitlin Long On Bitcoin, Blockchain And Rehypothecation (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Drops To $10,446.83 As CFTC Charges BitMex With Illegally Operating Derivatives Exchange

BitcoinACKs Lets You Track Bitcoin Development And Pay Coders For Their Work

One Of Hal Finney’s Lost Contributions To Bitcoin Core To Be ‘Resurrected’ (#GotBitcoin?)

Cross-chain Money Markets, Latest Attempt To Bring Liquidity To DeFi

Memes Mean Mad Money. Those Silly Defi Memes, They’re Really Important (#GotBitcoin?)

Bennie Overton’s Story About Our Corrupt U.S. Judicial, Global Financial Monetary System And Bitcoin

Stop Fucking Around With Public Token Airdrops In The United States (#GotBitcoin?)

Mad Money’s Jim Cramer Will Invest 1% Of Net Worth In Bitcoin Says, “Gold Is Dangerous”

State-by-state Licensing For Crypto And Payments Firms In The Us Just Got Much Easier (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin (BTC) Ranks As World 6Th Largest Currency

Pomp Claims He Convinced Jim Cramer To Buy Bitcoin

Traditional Investors View Bitcoin As If It Were A Technology Stock

Mastercard Releases Platform Enabling Central Banks To Test Digital Currencies (#GotBitcoin?)

Being Black On Wall Street. Top Black Executives Speak Out About Racism (#GotBitcoin?)

Tesla And Bitcoin Are The Most Popular Assets On TradingView (#GotBitcoin?)

From COVID Generation To Crypto Generation (#GotBitcoin?)

Right-Winger Tucker Carlson Causes Grayscale Investments To Pull Bitcoin Ads

Bitcoin Has Lost Its Way: Here’s How To Return To Crypto’s Subversive Roots

Cross Chain Is Here: NEO, ONT, Cosmos And NEAR Launch Interoperability Protocols (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Trading Products Enter The Mainstream With A Number Of Inherent Advantages (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Goes Mainstream With TV, Newspaper Ads (#GotBitcoin?)

A Guarded Generation: How Millennials View Money And Investing (#GotBitcoin?)

Blockchain-Backed Social Media Brings More Choice For Users

California Moves Forward With Digital Asset Bill (#GotBitcoin?)

Walmart Adds Crypto Cashback Through Shopping Loyalty Platform StormX (#GotBitcoin?)

Congressman Tom Emmer To Lead First-Ever Crypto Town Hall (#GotBitcoin?)

Why It’s Time To Pay Attention To Mexico’s Booming Crypto Market (#GotBitcoin?)

The Assets That Matter Most In Crypto (#GotBitcoin?)

Ultimate Resource On Non-Fungible Tokens

Bitcoin Community Highlights Double-Standard Applied Deutsche Bank Epstein Scandal

Blockchain Makes Strides In Diversity. However, Traditional Tech Industry Not-S0-Much (#GotBitcoin?)

An Israeli Blockchain Startup Claims It’s Invented An ‘Undo’ Button For BTC Transactions

After Years of Resistance, BitPay Adopts SegWit For Cheaper Bitcoin Transactions

US Appeals Court Allows Warrantless Search of Blockchain, Exchange Data

Central Bank Rate Cuts Mean ‘World Has Gone Zimbabwe’

This Researcher Says Bitcoin’s Elliptic Curve Could Have A Secret Backdoor

China Discovers 4% Of Its Reserves Or 83 Tons Of It’s Gold Bars Are Fake (#GotBitcoin?)

Former Legg Mason Star Bill Miller And Bloomberg Are Optimistic About Bitcoin’s Future

Yield Chasers Are Yield Farming In Crypto-Currencies (#GotBitcoin?)

Australia Post Office Now Lets Customers Buy Bitcoin At Over 3,500 Outlets

Anomaly On Bitcoin Sidechain Results In Brief Security Lapse

SEC And DOJ Charges Lobbying Kingpin Jack Abramoff And Associate For Money Laundering

Veteran Commodities Trader Chris Hehmeyer Goes All In On Crypto (#GotBitcoin?)

Activists Document Police Misconduct Using Decentralized Protocol (#GotBitcoin?)

Supposedly, PayPal, Venmo To Roll Out Crypto Buying And Selling (#GotBitcoin?)

Industry Leaders Launch PayID, The Universal ID For Payments (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Quant Fund Debuts With $23M In Assets, $2.3B In Trades (#GotBitcoin?)

The Queens Politician Who Wants To Give New Yorkers Their Own Crypto

Why Does The SEC Want To Run Bitcoin And Ethereum Nodes?

Trump Orders Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin To Destroy Bitcoin Just Like They Destroyed The Traditional Economy

US Drug Agency Failed To Properly Supervise Agent Who Stole $700,000 In Bitcoin In 2015

Layer 2 Will Make Bitcoin As Easy To Use As The Dollar, Says Kraken CEO

Bootstrapping Mobile Mesh Networks With Bitcoin Lightning

Nevermind Coinbase — Big Brother Is Already Watching Your Coins (#GotBitcoin?)

BitPay’s Prepaid Mastercard Launches In US to Make Crypto Accessible (#GotBitcoin?)

Germany’s Deutsche Borse Exchange To List New Bitcoin Exchange-Traded Product

‘Bitcoin Billionaires’ Movie To Tell Winklevoss Bros’ Crypto Story

US Pentagon Created A War Game To Fight The Establishment With BTC (#GotBitcoin?)

JPMorgan Provides Banking Services To Crypto Exchanges Coinbase And Gemini (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Advocates Cry Foul As US Fed Buying ETFs For The First Time

Final Block Mined Before Halving Contained Reminder of BTC’s Origins (#GotBitcoin?)

Meet Brian Klein, Crypto’s Own ‘High-Stakes’ Trial Attorney (#GotBitcoin?)

3 Reasons For The Bitcoin Price ‘Halving Dump’ From $10K To $8.1K

Bitcoin Outlives And Outlasts Naysayers And First Website That Declared It Dead Back In 2010

Hedge Fund Pioneer Turns Bullish On Bitcoin Amid ‘Unprecedented’ Monetary Inflation

Antonopoulos: Chainalysis Is Helping World’s Worst Dictators & Regimes (#GotBitcoin?)

Survey Shows Many BTC Holders Use Hardware Wallet, Have Backup Keys (#GotBitcoin?)

Iran Ditches The Rial Amid Hyperinflation As Localbitcoins Seem To Trade Near $35K

Buffett ‘Killed His Reputation’ by Being Stupid About BTC, Says Max Keiser (#GotBitcoin?)

Meltem Demirors: “Bitcoin Is Not A F*Cking Systemic Hedge If You Hold Your Bitcoin At A Financial Institution”

Blockfolio Quietly Patches Years-Old Security Hole That Exposed Source Code (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Won As Store of Value In Coronavirus Crisis — Hedge Fund CEO

Decentralized VPN Gaining Steam At 100,000 Users Worldwide (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Exchange Offers Credit Lines so Institutions Can Trade Now, Pay Later (#GotBitcoin?)

Zoom Develops A Cryptocurrency Paywall To Reward Creators Video Conferencing Sessions (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Startup Purse.io And Major Bitcoin Cash Partner To Shut Down After 6-Year Run

Open Interest In CME Bitcoin Futures Rises 70% As Institutions Return To Market

Square’s Users Can Route Stimulus Payments To BTC-Friendly Cash App

$1.1 Billion BTC Transaction For Only $0.68 Demonstrates Bitcoin’s Advantage Over Banks

Bitcoin Could Become Like ‘Prison Cigarettes’ Amid Deepening Financial Crisis

Bitcoin Holds Value As US Debt Reaches An Unfathomable $24 Trillion

How To Get Money (Crypto-currency) To People In An Emergency, Fast

US Intelligence To Study What Would Happen If U.S. Dollar Lost Its Status As World’s Reserve Currency (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Miner Manufacturers Mark Down Prices Ahead of Halving

Privacy-Oriented Browsers Gain Traction (#GotBitcoin?)

‘Breakthrough’ As Lightning Uses Web’s Forgotten Payment Code (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Starts Quarter With Price Down Just 10% YTD vs U.S. Stock’s Worst Quarter Since 2008

Bitcoin Enthusiasts, Liberal Lawmakers Cheer A Fed-Backed Digital Dollar

Crypto-Friendly Bank Revolut Launches In The US (#GotBitcoin?)

The CFTC Just Defined What ‘Actual Delivery’ of Crypto Should Look Like (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto CEO Compares US Dollar To Onecoin Scam As Fed Keeps Printing (#GotBitcoin?)

Stuck In Quarantine? Become A Blockchain Expert With These Online Courses (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin, Not Governments Will Save the World After Crisis, Tim Draper Says

Crypto Analyst Accused of Photoshopping Trade Screenshots (#GotBitcoin?)

QE4 Begins: Fed Cuts Rates, Buys $700B In Bonds; Bitcoin Rallies 7.7%

Mike Novogratz And Andreas Antonopoulos On The Bitcoin Crash

Amid Market Downturn, Number of People Owning 1 BTC Hits New Record (#GotBitcoin?)

Fatburger And Others Feed $30 Million Into Ethereum For New Bond Offering (#GotBitcoin?)

Pornhub Will Integrate PumaPay Recurring Subscription Crypto Payments (#GotBitcoin?)

Intel SGX Vulnerability Discovered, Cryptocurrency Keys Threatened

Bitcoin’s Plunge Due To Manipulation, Traditional Markets Falling or PlusToken Dumping?

Countries That First Outlawed Crypto But Then Embraced It (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Maintains Gains As Global Equities Slide, US Yield Hits Record Lows

HTC’s New 5G Router Can Host A Full Bitcoin Node

India Supreme Court Lifts RBI Ban On Banks Servicing Crypto Firms (#GotBitcoin?)

Analyst Claims 98% of Mining Rigs Fail to Verify Transactions (#GotBitcoin?)

Blockchain Storage Offers Security, Data Transparency And immutability. Get Over it!

Black Americans & Crypto (#GotBitcoin?)

Coinbase Wallet Now Allows To Send Crypto Through Usernames (#GotBitcoin)

New ‘Simpsons’ Episode Features Jim Parsons Giving A Crypto Explainer For The Masses (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto-currency Founder Met With Warren Buffett For Charity Lunch (#GotBitcoin?)

Witches Love Bitcoin

Bitcoin’s Potential To Benefit The African And African-American Community

Coinbase Becomes Direct Visa Card Issuer With Principal Membership

Bitcoin Achieves Major Milestone With Half A Billion Transactions Confirmed

Jill Carlson, Meltem Demirors Back $3.3M Round For Non-Custodial Settlement Protocol Arwen

Crypto Companies Adopt Features Similar To Banks (Only Better) To Drive Growth (#GotBitcoin?)

Top Graphics Cards That Will Turn A Crypto Mining Profit (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Usage Among Merchants Is Up, According To Data From Coinbase And BitPay

Top 10 Books Recommended by Crypto (#Bitcoin) Thought Leaders

Twitter Adds Bitcoin Emoji, Jack Dorsey Suggests Unicode Does The Same

Bitcoiners Are Now Into Fasting. Read This Article To Find Out Why

You Can Now Donate Bitcoin Or Fiat To Show Your Support For All Of Our Valuable Content

2019’s Top 10 Institutional Actors In Crypto (#GotBitcoin?)

What Does Twitter’s New Decentralized Initiative Mean? (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto-Friendly Silvergate Bank Goes Public On New York Stock Exchange (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin’s Best Q1 Since 2013 To ‘Escalate’ If $9.5K Is Broken

Billionaire Investor Tim Draper: If You’re a Millennial, Buy Bitcoin

What Are Lightning Wallets Doing To Help Onboard New Users? (#GotBitcoin?)

If You Missed Out On Investing In Amazon, Bitcoin Might Be A Second Chance For You (#GotBitcoin?)

2020 And Beyond: Bitcoin’s Potential Protocol (Privacy And Scalability) Upgrades (#GotBitcoin?)

US Deficit Will Be At Least 6 Times Bitcoin Market Cap — Every Year (#GotBitcoin?)

Central Banks Warm To Issuing Digital Currencies (#GotBitcoin?)

Meet The Crypto Angel Investor Running For Congress In Nevada (#GotBitcoin?)

Introducing BTCPay Vault – Use Any Hardware Wallet With BTCPay And Its Full Node (#GotBitcoin?)

How Not To Lose Your Coins In 2020: Alternative Recovery Methods (#GotBitcoin?)

H.R.5635 – Virtual Currency Tax Fairness Act of 2020 ($200.00 Limit) 116th Congress (2019-2020)

Adam Back On Satoshi Emails, Privacy Concerns And Bitcoin’s Early Days

The Prospect of Using Bitcoin To Build A New International Monetary System Is Getting Real

How To Raise Funds For Australia Wildfire Relief Efforts (Using Bitcoin And/Or Fiat )

Former Regulator Known As ‘Crypto Dad’ To Launch Digital-Dollar Think Tank (#GotBitcoin?)

Currency ‘Cold War’ Takes Center Stage At Pre-Davos Crypto Confab (#GotBitcoin?)

A Blockchain-Secured Home Security Camera Won Innovation Awards At CES 2020 Las Vegas

Bitcoin’s Had A Sensational 11 Years (#GotBitcoin?)

Sergey Nazarov And The Creation Of A Decentralized Network Of Oracles

Google Suspends MetaMask From Its Play App Store, Citing “Deceptive Services”

Christmas Shopping: Where To Buy With Crypto This Festive Season

At 8,990,000% Gains, Bitcoin Dwarfs All Other Investments This Decade

Coinbase CEO Armstrong Wins Patent For Tech Allowing Users To Email Bitcoin

Bitcoin Has Got Society To Think About The Nature Of Money

How DeFi Goes Mainstream In 2020: Focus On Usability (#GotBitcoin?)

Dissidents And Activists Have A Lot To Gain From Bitcoin, If Only They Knew It (#GotBitcoin?)

At A Refugee Camp In Iraq, A 16-Year-Old Syrian Is Teaching Crypto Basics

Bitclub Scheme Busted In The US, Promising High Returns From Mining

Bitcoin Advertised On French National TV

Germany: New Proposed Law Would Legalize Banks Holding Bitcoin

How To Earn And Spend Bitcoin On Black Friday 2019

The Ultimate List of Bitcoin Developments And Accomplishments

Charities Put A Bitcoin Twist On Giving Tuesday

Family Offices Finally Accept The Benefits of Investing In Bitcoin

An Army Of Bitcoin Devs Is Battle-Testing Upgrades To Privacy And Scaling

Bitcoin ‘Carry Trade’ Can Net Annual Gains With Little Risk, Says PlanB

Max Keiser: Bitcoin’s ‘Self-Settlement’ Is A Revolution Against Dollar

Blockchain Can And Will Replace The IRS

China Seizes The Blockchain Opportunity. How Should The US Respond? (#GotBitcoin?)

Jack Dorsey: You Can Buy A Fraction Of Berkshire Stock Or ‘Stack Sats’

Bitcoin Price Skyrockets $500 In Minutes As Bakkt BTC Contracts Hit Highs

Bitcoin’s Irreversibility Challenges International Private Law: Legal Scholar

Bitcoin Has Already Reached 40% Of Average Fiat Currency Lifespan

Yes, Even Bitcoin HODLers Can Lose Money In The Long-Term: Here’s How (#GotBitcoin?)

Unicef To Accept Donations In Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Former Prosecutor Asked To “Shut Down Bitcoin” And Is Now Face Of Crypto VC Investing (#GotBitcoin?)

Switzerland’s ‘Crypto Valley’ Is Bringing Blockchain To Zurich

Next Bitcoin Halving May Not Lead To Bull Market, Says Bitmain CEO

Tim Draper Bets On Unstoppable Domain’s .Crypto Domain Registry To Replace Wallet Addresses (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Developer Amir Taaki, “We Can Crash National Economies” (#GotBitcoin?)

Veteran Crypto And Stocks Trader Shares 6 Ways To Invest And Get Rich

Have I Missed The Boat? – Best Ways To Purchase Cryptocurrency

Is Chainlink Blazing A Trail Independent Of Bitcoin?

Nearly $10 Billion In BTC Is Held In Wallets Of 8 Crypto Exchanges (#GotBitcoin?)

SEC Enters Settlement Talks With Alleged Fraudulent Firm Veritaseum (#GotBitcoin?)

Blockstream’s Samson Mow: Bitcoin’s Block Size Already ‘Too Big’

Attorneys Seek Bank Of Ireland Execs’ Testimony Against OneCoin Scammer (#GotBitcoin?)

OpenLibra Plans To Launch Permissionless Fork Of Facebook’s Stablecoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Tiny $217 Options Trade On Bitcoin Blockchain Could Be Wall Street’s Death Knell (#GotBitcoin?)

Class Action Accuses Tether And Bitfinex Of Market Manipulation (#GotBitcoin?)

Sharia Goldbugs: How ISIS Created A Currency For World Domination (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Eyes Demand As Hong Kong Protestors Announce Bank Run (#GotBitcoin?)

How To Securely Transfer Crypto To Your Heirs

‘Gold-Backed’ Crypto Token Promoter Karatbars Investigated By Florida Regulators (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto News From The Spanish-Speaking World (#GotBitcoin?)

Financial Services Giant Morningstar To Offer Ratings For Crypto Assets (#GotBitcoin?)

‘Gold-Backed’ Crypto Token Promoter Karatbars Investigated By Florida Regulators (#GotBitcoin?)

The Original Sins Of Cryptocurrencies (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Is The Fraud? JPMorgan Metals Desk Fixed Gold Prices For Years (#GotBitcoin?)

Israeli Startup That Allows Offline Crypto Transactions Secures $4M (#GotBitcoin?)

[PSA] Non-genuine Trezor One Devices Spotted (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Stronger Than Ever But No One Seems To Care: Google Trends (#GotBitcoin?)

First-Ever SEC-Qualified Token Offering In US Raises $23 Million (#GotBitcoin?)

You Can Now Prove A Whole Blockchain With One Math Problem – Really

Crypto Mining Supply Fails To Meet Market Demand In Q2: TokenInsight

$2 Billion Lost In Mt. Gox Bitcoin Hack Can Be Recovered, Lawyer Claims (#GotBitcoin?)

Fed Chair Says Agency Monitoring Crypto But Not Developing Its Own (#GotBitcoin?)

Wesley Snipes Is Launching A Tokenized $25 Million Movie Fund (#GotBitcoin?)

Mystery 94K BTC Transaction Becomes Richest Non-Exchange Address (#GotBitcoin?)

A Crypto Fix For A Broken International Monetary System (#GotBitcoin?)

Four Out Of Five Top Bitcoin QR Code Generators Are Scams: Report (#GotBitcoin?)

Waves Platform And The Abyss To Jointly Launch Blockchain-Based Games Marketplace (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitmain Ramps Up Power And Efficiency With New Bitcoin Mining Machine (#GotBitcoin?)

Ledger Live Now Supports Over 1,250 Ethereum-Based ERC-20 Tokens (#GotBitcoin?)

Miss Finland: Bitcoin’s Risk Keeps Most Women Away From Cryptocurrency (#GotBitcoin?)

Artist Akon Loves BTC And Says, “It’s Controlled By The People” (#GotBitcoin?)

Ledger Live Now Supports Over 1,250 Ethereum-Based ERC-20 Tokens (#GotBitcoin?)

Co-Founder Of LinkedIn Presents Crypto Rap Video: Hamilton Vs. Satoshi (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Insurance Market To Grow, Lloyd’s Of London And Aon To Lead (#GotBitcoin?)

No ‘AltSeason’ Until Bitcoin Breaks $20K, Says Hedge Fund Manager (#GotBitcoin?)

NSA Working To Develop Quantum-Resistant Cryptocurrency: Report (#GotBitcoin?)

Custody Provider Legacy Trust Launches Crypto Pension Plan (#GotBitcoin?)

Vaneck, SolidX To Offer Limited Bitcoin ETF For Institutions Via Exemption (#GotBitcoin?)

Russell Okung: From NFL Superstar To Bitcoin Educator In 2 Years (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Miners Made $14 Billion To Date Securing The Network (#GotBitcoin?)

Why Does Amazon Want To Hire Blockchain Experts For Its Ads Division?

Argentina’s Economy Is In A Technical Default (#GotBitcoin?)

Blockchain-Based Fractional Ownership Used To Sell High-End Art (#GotBitcoin?)

Portugal Tax Authority: Bitcoin Trading And Payments Are Tax-Free (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin ‘Failed Safe Haven Test’ After 7% Drop, Peter Schiff Gloats (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Dev Reveals Multisig UI Teaser For Hardware Wallets, Full Nodes (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Price: $10K Holds For Now As 50% Of CME Futures Set To Expire (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Realized Market Cap Hits $100 Billion For The First Time (#GotBitcoin?)

Stablecoins Begin To Look Beyond The Dollar (#GotBitcoin?)

Bank Of England Governor: Libra-Like Currency Could Replace US Dollar (#GotBitcoin?)

Binance Reveals ‘Venus’ — Its Own Project To Rival Facebook’s Libra (#GotBitcoin?)

The Real Benefits Of Blockchain Are Here. They’re Being Ignored (#GotBitcoin?)

CommBank Develops Blockchain Market To Boost Biodiversity (#GotBitcoin?)

SEC Approves Blockchain Tech Startup Securitize To Record Stock Transfers (#GotBitcoin?)

SegWit Creator Introduces New Language For Bitcoin Smart Contracts (#GotBitcoin?)

You Can Now Earn Bitcoin Rewards For Postmates Purchases (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Price ‘Will Struggle’ In Big Financial Crisis, Says Investor (#GotBitcoin?)

Fidelity Charitable Received Over $100M In Crypto Donations Since 2015 (#GotBitcoin?)

Would Blockchain Better Protect User Data Than FaceApp? Experts Answer (#GotBitcoin?)

Just The Existence Of Bitcoin Impacts Monetary Policy (#GotBitcoin?)

What Are The Biggest Alleged Crypto Heists And How Much Was Stolen? (#GotBitcoin?)

IRS To Cryptocurrency Owners: Come Clean, Or Else!

Coinbase Accidentally Saves Unencrypted Passwords Of 3,420 Customers (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Is A ‘Chaos Hedge, Or Schmuck Insurance‘ (#GotBitcoin?)

Bakkt Announces September 23 Launch Of Futures And Custody

Coinbase CEO: Institutions Depositing $200-400M Into Crypto Per Week (#GotBitcoin?)

Researchers Find Monero Mining Malware That Hides From Task Manager (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Dusting Attack Affects Nearly 300,000 Addresses (#GotBitcoin?)

A Case For Bitcoin As Recession Hedge In A Diversified Investment Portfolio (#GotBitcoin?)

SEC Guidance Gives Ammo To Lawsuit Claiming XRP Is Unregistered Security (#GotBitcoin?)

15 Countries To Develop Crypto Transaction Tracking System: Report (#GotBitcoin?)

US Department Of Commerce Offering 6-Figure Salary To Crypto Expert (#GotBitcoin?)

Mastercard Is Building A Team To Develop Crypto, Wallet Projects (#GotBitcoin?)

Canadian Bitcoin Educator Scams The Scammer And Donates Proceeds (#GotBitcoin?)

Amazon Wants To Build A Blockchain For Ads, New Job Listing Shows (#GotBitcoin?)

Shield Bitcoin Wallets From Theft Via Time Delay (#GotBitcoin?)

Blockstream Launches Bitcoin Mining Farm With Fidelity As Early Customer (#GotBitcoin?)

Commerzbank Tests Blockchain Machine To Machine Payments With Daimler (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin’s Historical Returns Look Very Attractive As Online Banks Lower Payouts On Savings Accounts (#GotBitcoin?)

Man Takes Bitcoin Miner Seller To Tribunal Over Electricity Bill And Wins (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin’s Computing Power Sets Record As Over 100K New Miners Go Online (#GotBitcoin?)

Walmart Coin And Libra Perform Major Public Relations For Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Judge Says Buying Bitcoin Via Credit Card Not Necessarily A Cash Advance (#GotBitcoin?)

Poll: If You’re A Stockowner Or Crypto-Currency Holder. What Will You Do When The Recession Comes?

1 In 5 Crypto Holders Are Women, New Report Reveals (#GotBitcoin?)

Beating Bakkt, Ledgerx Is First To Launch ‘Physical’ Bitcoin Futures In Us (#GotBitcoin?)

Facebook Warns Investors That Libra Stablecoin May Never Launch (#GotBitcoin?)

Government Money Printing Is ‘Rocket Fuel’ For Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin-Friendly Square Cash App Stock Price Up 56% In 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)

Safeway Shoppers Can Now Get Bitcoin Back As Change At 894 US Stores (#GotBitcoin?)

TD Ameritrade CEO: There’s ‘Heightened Interest Again’ With Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Venezuela Sets New Bitcoin Volume Record Thanks To 10,000,000% Inflation (#GotBitcoin?)

Newegg Adds Bitcoin Payment Option To 73 More Countries (#GotBitcoin?)

China’s Schizophrenic Relationship With Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

More Companies Build Products Around Crypto Hardware Wallets (#GotBitcoin?)

Bakkt Is Scheduled To Start Testing Its Bitcoin Futures Contracts Today (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Network Now 8 Times More Powerful Than It Was At $20K Price (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Exchange BitMEX Under Investigation By CFTC: Bloomberg (#GotBitcoin?)

“Bitcoin An ‘Unstoppable Force,” Says US Congressman At Crypto Hearing (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Network Is Moving $3 Billion Daily, Up 210% Since April (#GotBitcoin?)

Cryptocurrency Startups Get Partial Green Light From Washington

Fundstrat’s Tom Lee: Bitcoin Pullback Is Healthy, Fewer Searches Аre Good (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Lightning Nodes Are Snatching Funds From Bad Actors (#GotBitcoin?)

The Provident Bank Now Offers Deposit Services For Crypto-Related Entities (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Could Help Stop News Censorship From Space (#GotBitcoin?)

US Sanctions On Iran Crypto Mining — Inevitable Or Impossible? (#GotBitcoin?)

US Lawmaker Reintroduces ‘Safe Harbor’ Crypto Tax Bill In Congress (#GotBitcoin?)

EU Central Bank Won’t Add Bitcoin To Reserves — Says It’s Not A Currency (#GotBitcoin?)

The Miami Dolphins Now Accept Bitcoin And Litecoin Crypt-Currency Payments (#GotBitcoin?)

Trump Bashes Bitcoin And Alt-Right Is Mad As Hell (#GotBitcoin?)

Goldman Sachs Ramps Up Development Of New Secret Crypto Project (#GotBitcoin?)

Blockchain And AI Bond, Explained (#GotBitcoin?)

Grayscale Bitcoin Trust Outperformed Indexes In First Half Of 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)

XRP Is The Worst Performing Major Crypto Of 2019 (GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Back Near $12K As BTC Shorters Lose $44 Million In One Morning (#GotBitcoin?)

As Deutsche Bank Axes 18K Jobs, Bitcoin Offers A ‘Plan ฿”: VanEck Exec (#GotBitcoin?)

Argentina Drives Global LocalBitcoins Volume To Highest Since November (#GotBitcoin?)

‘I Would Buy’ Bitcoin If Growth Continues — Investment Legend Mobius (#GotBitcoin?)

Lawmakers Push For New Bitcoin Rules (#GotBitcoin?)

Facebook’s Libra Is Bad For African Americans (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Firm Charity Announces Alliance To Support Feminine Health (#GotBitcoin?)

Canadian Startup Wants To Upgrade Millions Of ATMs To Sell Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Trump Says US ‘Should Match’ China’s Money Printing Game (#GotBitcoin?)

Casa Launches Lightning Node Mobile App For Bitcoin Newbies (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Rally Fuels Market In Crypto Derivatives (#GotBitcoin?)

World’s First Zero-Fiat ‘Bitcoin Bond’ Now Available On Bloomberg Terminal (#GotBitcoin?)

Buying Bitcoin Has Been Profitable 98.2% Of The Days Since Creation (#GotBitcoin?)

Another Crypto Exchange Receives License For Crypto Futures

From ‘Ponzi’ To ‘We’re Working On It’ — BIS Chief Reverses Stance On Crypto (#GotBitcoin?)

These Are The Cities Googling ‘Bitcoin’ As Interest Hits 17-Month High (#GotBitcoin?)

Venezuelan Explains How Bitcoin Saves His Family (#GotBitcoin?)

Quantum Computing Vs. Blockchain: Impact On Cryptography

This Fund Is Riding Bitcoin To Top (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin’s Surge Leaves Smaller Digital Currencies In The Dust (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Exchange Hits $1 Trillion In Trading Volume (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Breaks $200 Billion Market Cap For The First Time In 17 Months (#GotBitcoin?)

You Can Now Make State Tax Payments In Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Religious Organizations Make Ideal Places To Mine Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Goldman Sacs And JP Morgan Chase Finally Concede To Crypto-Currencies (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Heading For Fifth Month Of Gains Despite Price Correction (#GotBitcoin?)

Breez Reveals Lightning-Powered Bitcoin Payments App For IPhone (#GotBitcoin?)

Big Four Auditing Firm PwC Releases Cryptocurrency Auditing Software (#GotBitcoin?)

Amazon-Owned Twitch Quietly Brings Back Bitcoin Payments (#GotBitcoin?)

JPMorgan Will Pilot ‘JPM Coin’ Stablecoin By End Of 2019: Report (#GotBitcoin?)

Is There A Big Short In Bitcoin? (#GotBitcoin?)

Coinbase Hit With Outage As Bitcoin Price Drops $1.8K In 15 Minutes

Samourai Wallet Releases Privacy-Enhancing CoinJoin Feature (#GotBitcoin?)

There Are Now More Than 5,000 Bitcoin ATMs Around The World (#GotBitcoin?)

You Can Now Get Bitcoin Rewards When Booking At Hotels.Com (#GotBitcoin?)

North America’s Largest Solar Bitcoin Mining Farm Coming To California (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin On Track For Best Second Quarter Price Gain On Record (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Hash Rate Climbs To New Record High Boosting Network Security (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Exceeds 1Million Active Addresses While Coinbase Custodies $1.3B In Assets

Why Bitcoin’s Price Suddenly Surged Back $5K (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin’s Lightning Comes To Apple Smartwatches With New App (#GotBitcoin?)

E-Trade To Offer Crypto Trading (#GotBitcoin)

US Rapper Lil Pump Starts Accepting Bitcoin Via Lightning Network On Merchandise Store (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitfinex Used Tether Reserves To Mask Missing $850 Million, Probe Finds (#GotBitcoin?)

21-Year-Old Jailed For 10 Years After Stealing $7.5M In Crypto By Hacking Cell Phones (#GotBitcoin?)

You Can Now Shop With Bitcoin On Amazon Using Lightning (#GotBitcoin?)

Afghanistan, Tunisia To Issue Sovereign Bonds In Bitcoin, Bright Future Ahead (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Faithful Say Blockchain Can Remake Securities Market Machinery (#GotBitcoin?)

Disney In Talks To Acquire The Owner Of Crypto Exchanges Bitstamp And Korbit (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Exchange Gemini Rolls Out Native Wallet Support For SegWit Bitcoin Addresses (#GotBitcoin?)

Binance Delists Bitcoin SV, CEO Calls Craig Wright A ‘Fraud’ (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Outperforms Nasdaq 100, S&P 500, Grows Whopping 37% In 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Passes A Milestone 400 Million Transactions (#GotBitcoin?)

Future Returns: Why Investors May Want To Consider Bitcoin Now (#GotBitcoin?)

Next Bitcoin Core Release To Finally Connect Hardware Wallets To Full Nodes (#GotBitcoin?)

Major Crypto-Currency Exchanges Use Lloyd’s Of London, A Registered Insurance Broker (#GotBitcoin?)

How Bitcoin Can Prevent Fraud And Chargebacks (#GotBitcoin?)

Why Bitcoin’s Price Suddenly Surged Back $5K (#GotBitcoin?)

Zebpay Becomes First Exchange To Add Lightning Payments For All Users (#GotBitcoin?)

Coinbase’s New Customer Incentive: Interest Payments, With A Crypto Twist (#GotBitcoin?)

The Best Bitcoin Debit (Cashback) Cards Of 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)

Real Estate Brokerages Now Accepting Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Ernst & Young Introduces Tax Tool For Reporting Cryptocurrencies (#GotBitcoin?)

How Will Bitcoin Behave During A Recession? (#GotBitcoin?)

Investors Run Out of Options As Bitcoin, Stocks, Bonds, Oil Cave To Recession Fears (#GotBitcoin?)

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