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Crypto wars: Can Russia use blockchain to get around sanctions?

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Russian separatists and Ukrainian militias have been using social media to recruit volunteers and fund their causes globally via cryptocurrency donations. To date, data by blockchain tracking firm Elliptic shows cryptocurrency investors have donated more than $US57.7 million ($75.6 million) worth of digital assets to the Ukrainian government and a nonprofit supporting the country’s military.

While crypto is proving to be a necessary lifeline for Ukraine, there are growing concerns Russia might use it to circumvent sanctions and move money undetected. Russia has one of the highest levels of crypto adoption, and before the Russia-Ukraine conflict, it ranked third among countries that sent the largest share of crypto transfers abroad (after Turkey and Ukraine). Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, other countries have bypassed economic sanctions using crypto, with Iran reportedly using bitcoin mining to evade trade embargoes. Moreover, as the New York Times reports, the Russian government has been developing a digital ruble and other tools to help hide digital…

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