March 22 was when the Russian Parliament, known as the Duma, was set to consider a new bill designed to recognize a financial asset in the digital space. It would have also provided a framework on how the digital financial assets would be regulated.
The draft bill did cause some controversy with the public when it was found out that words such as "cryptocurrency," "token" and "smart contract" were specifically removed.
This is nothing new to followers of Russia's relationship with cryptocurrencies, which has always been very cautious. This stance has surprised many pundits on how slowly Russia is adapting to this new technology, particularly in light of it's continued problems with getting around sanction imposed by the US.
Vladimir Putin said in 2018 that while most countries do not regard cryptocurrencies as a form of settlement, that the Central Bank of the Russian Federation agrees, but adds that it does not believe it can be a means of payment or store of value either.
Despite seeing other countries in similar circumstances make public, active efforts with blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies, Russia continues to drag its feet on the regulatory end. Iran and North Korea, tow countries that are hard pressed by economic sanctions from the US, has made considerable strides to improve their freedom from the US controlled SWIFT payment system.
On the other hand, Elvira Nabiullina has described the ICO process as "efficient" when describing the central bank's own sandbox tests. This had led most analysts to put themselves in one of two groups.
The first group is of the opinion that the core of the government views cryptocurrencies as something that is inherently distrustful and bad. In fact, so much so that they are openly hostile to it.
The other group is of the opinion that the Russians, who are tech-mad and have come up with fantastic local options to major western tech companies, such Vk instead of Facebook or Yandex instead of Google, are building an underground blockchain backed cryptocurrency before they fully put in the law for it. They are keeping things quiet so that once they come to market, they will be able to end their reliance on SWIFT in one fell stroke.
The original bill, according to experts, sought to define digital financial assets and even recognized the subtle differences that separate a cryptocurrency and a token. It would also have provided a basis for smart contracts to be recognized within the framework of Russian law.
However, since removing any terms dealing with cryptocurrency and digital currency, the bill is being looked at becoming a broad document that is non-specific but focusing on the digital realm. It will recognize digital financial assets, but will also make it possible to recognize digital intellectual property rights. One of the more interesting things analysts have noticed is that using this bill, people will be able to include and transfer digital intellectual property rights within an equity securities context.
How this new bill will impact Russia's drive to crypto and blockchain tech is murky at the moment, with very few people willing to try and outthink the Duma and Russia's entrepreneurial tech sector.
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