For the crypto industry, supporting sanctions is an opportunity to rebrand

One of the first punitive measures leveled against Russia in response to the military invasion of Ukraine was the implementation of economic sanctions aimed at isolating the country from the international financial system. On March 12, Russian banks lost access to the international payments and messaging network SWIFT, and private sector payment companies, such as Visa, PayPal and Mastercard, were close behind. But while these highly regulated and publicly scrutinized organizations were quick to react to the crisis, concerns quickly mounted that the Russian state, as well as companies and oligarchs associated with it, could turn to digital currency exchanges as a backdoor to side-step sanctions.

In the United Kingdom, the Bank of England and Financial Conduct Authority asked crypto firms to enforce sanctions across their platforms, and central banks and regulators around the world have since joined this chorus of concern. Most recently, Japan announced it would be revising its Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act. This aims to widen its breadth to apply to crypto assets, meaning exchanges will be required to assess whether their clients are Russian sanction targets.

And yet some of the most well-known crypto exchanges are still dragging their feet, reluctant to toe the line drawn by global policymakers and regulators. Binance, the world’s biggest exchange, as well as Coinbase and Kraken, have all shown empathy for the plight of Ukrainians, and some have frozen accounts linked to sanctioned individuals, but they have all stopped short of stepping back out of Russia or blocking all money flows into and out of the country.

Related: Every Bitcoin helps: Crypto-fueled relief aid for Ukraine

As the CEO of Poland’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, I understand the moral dilemma they face, torn between free-market ideals and a sense of moral duty, but as this devastating human tragedy unfolds in Eastern Europe, we as an industry must be doing more to condemn the violence through access to our platforms. At Zonda, we didn’t make the decision to withdraw from Russia lightly, but we did make it quickly, and in so…



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