Many major cryptocurrency exchanges put forth defiant statements this week when Ukraine asked them to freeze any accounts belonging to Russians, with some exchanges calling upon crypto’s history of libertarian ideals to back up their decisions.
More quietly, however, many were complying with the sanctions plan aimed at devastating the Russian economy.
The gap between the words and actions of crypto’s biggest players points to the challenges that the crypto community now faces as a mainstream industry in the midst of a geopolitical and humanitarian crisis — one that now looks like a defining moment for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ethereum.
On the Ukrainian side, digital coins have lived up to their reputation for easily moving money across international borders, as sympathizers with the Ukrainian cause have raised the equivalent of more than $54 million through cryptocurrency donations.
But on the Russian side, the supposedly borderless form of money has instead collided with the reality of international sanctions spurred by a major European conflict — and also the…