As of 2017, using bitcoin in Russia has been a contentious issue after current President of Russia Vladimir Putin banned it. Echoing Putin’s sentiments, the Deputy Finance Minister of Russia Alexei Moiseev also stated that “bitcoin settlements in Russia will not be legalized.”
The central bank also added that Bitcoin cannot be used as an alternative payment option. So, as of now, it looks as though the Russian government has clearly set its mind not to approve the use of bitcoins anytime in the short or medium term.
Due to the unclear legal situation, there are only a few exchanges and brokers that exist. Many people prefer trading with localBitcoins. BTC-E is one of the major exchanges to trade Rubel and bitcoin. It works with a variety of payment providers to permit depositing of funds.
As the government continues to stand divided on the issue of crypto-currency, some places have started looking at bitcoin as an acceptable payment option. Parting from tradition, restaurants such as Valenok and Vintage 77 in Moscow even started accepting bitcoin as a payment option.
Another sign of changing times is the fact that many Russian universities are also offering courses on crypto-currencies. The courses will be incorporated into the schools’ programs in the academic year 2017-18. Some of these universities are Moscow State University, Higher School of Economics, The Saint Petersburg State University of Economics, etc.
Bitcoin ATMs in Russia
Despite Russian government partially banning cryptocurrencies in the country, some exchanges continue to thrive, nonetheless. For instance, Russia-based InvestCoin24 will oversee the installation of Bitcoin ATMs in Moscow.
The project had modest beginnings when an ATM popped up in St. Petersburg. This ATM allowed users to buy bitcoin for a 4% fee. The machine was operated by crypto-currency exchange Bitlish and provides Bitcoin, Ethereum, LiteCoin, among others. The machine is located at a shopping center, on the Vasilevsky Island.
Now, there are 100 ATMs scheduled to be set up in Moscow by the end of 2017.
Previously, InvestCoin24 had installed one in Moscow as a dry run. Now, the company is planning to collaborate with airport owners to set up ATMs in the departure and arrival terminals which will give access to cryptocurrencies to those leaving and entering the country.
The company said they are relying on their own funds to get the project running, without the help of any external funding.
Earlier this year, Russian startup CoinSpot had apparently brought one of the first bitcoin ATMs to Moscow.
Another encouraging sign that crypto-currencies are the next big thing in Russia was that Russia’s third most populated city Novosibirsk saw 10 bitcoin ATMs installed by a local startup.
The practice of installing ATMs in different cities in Russia has been growing day by day but as of today, the government does not seem to have taken any action against these as yet.
Most of the terminals are located in stores selling bottled beverages. The initial plan was to set them up in the city’s high-end shopping malls, but the rents were high.
It took three months to develop the software operating the machines and the machine will levy a charge of 6% on each transaction.
It is indeed a costly way to buy bitcoins but considering the volatility that we have been seeing in the Bitcoin prices, many of the Russians still believe that it is a good way to trade this instrument and apart from using it as a method of payment across borders, they also use this to speculate on the prices of bitcoin so that they could make some quick profit on the Bitcoin’s price movements which seem to be headed only one way of late.
A local Russian daily stated that by the end of 2017, there will be around 100 one-way crypto-currency ATMs that will dot Moscow. Apart from airports, InvestCoin24 will install some terminals in hotels to make sure Bitcoin and other forms of cryptocurrencies are accessible to whoever seeks them.