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World’s biggest crypto exchange Binance says it will not block all Russian accounts despite Ukraine request

KEY POINTS
  • On Sunday, Mykhailo Fedorov, vice prime minister of Ukraine, asked major exchanges to block the addresses of Russian users.
  • Binance said it is “not going to unilaterally freeze millions of innocent users’ accounts.”
  • Jesse Powell, CEO of Kraken, another major cryptocurrency exchange, said on Twitter that the company “cannot freeze the accounts of our Russian clients without a legal requirement to do so.”

Binance said Monday it will block the accounts of Russian individuals who have been sanctioned, but will not “unilaterally” freeze the accounts of all Russian users.

The comments come after Ukraine’s vice prime minister called on major cryptocurrency exchange to block all Russian user accounts.

“We are not going to unilaterally freeze millions of innocent users’ accounts,” a spokesperson for Binance, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange, told CNBC.

“Crypto is meant to provide greater financial freedom for people across the globe. To unilaterally decide to ban people’s access to their crypto would fly in the face of the reason why crypto exists.”

On Sunday, Mykhailo Fedorov, vice prime minister of Ukraine, asked major exchanges to block the addresses of Russian users.

“It’s crucial to freeze not only the addresses linked to Russian and Belarusian politicians, but also to sabotage ordinary users,” Fedorov said in a tweet.

Belarus is a Russian ally.

Russia continues to attack major cities across Ukraine, but the country’s forces are believed to have mostly held off Russian advances.

The U.S. and European Union have responded with sanctions targeting Russian banks, sovereign debt, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and the leader himself. The Russian ruble has plunged as a result.

Binance said it is “taking the steps necessary to ensure we take action against those that have had sanctions levied against them while minimizing impact to innocent users.”

“Should the international community widen those sanctions further, we will apply those aggressively as well,” a company spokesperson added.

Binance said it would block the accounts of any individuals on sanctions lists and was “ensuring that all sanctions are met in full.”

CNBC also reached out to other major cryptocurrency exchanges asking if they will freeze Russian user accounts, but has yet to hear back.

Jesse Powell, CEO of Kraken, another major cryptocurrency exchange, said Monday on Twitter that the company “cannot freeze the accounts of our Russian clients without a legal requirement to do so.”

However, Dmarket, a platform that allows people to trade virtual in-game items, said it had cut “all relationships with Russia and Belarus due to the invasion of Ukraine,” in a statement on Twitter.

The company said users from Russia and Belarus were prohibited from registering with Dmarket and the accounts of users from the countries had been frozen. The Russian ruble has been removed from the platform, according to Dmarket, which called itself a “Ukrainian-born startup.”

This article was originally published on CNBC by Arjun Kharpal

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