Cryptocurrency prices were off Monday as Russia stepped up its invasion of Ukraine and the embattled nation continued to raise money for military supplies with crypto.
Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency by market value, was down slightly to $37,684, according to CoinGecko. Ethereum was down 2.3% to $2,582 and meme coin dogecoin slipped nearly 2% to $0.121460.
‘An Incredible Unity’
On Friday, Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice Prime minister, said on Twitter that the country’s crypto fund raised $50 million in cryptocurrency in a week.
“An incredible unity before Putin’s encroachment on freedom and democracy,” Fedorov said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Aiming for $100M this week. We WILL win!”
The U.S. and other nations imposed sanctions on Russia in response to the invasion as the value of the ruble tumbled.
J.P. Morgan offered a bleak forecast of the country’s economy, predicting “a collapse in Russian GDP.” A report from the bank’s economists, led by Bruce Kasman, said, “the sanctions will hit their mark on the Russian economy, which now looks headed for a deep recession.”
“The Russia-Ukraine conflict has thrust crypto into the spotlight and raised one big question: Can cryptos be used to avoid sanctions? The quick answer is not likely,” said Winston Ma, managing partner of CloudTree Ventures, Author of The Digital War – How China’s Tech Power Shapes the Future of AI, Blockchain and Cyberspace.”
Ma said that many people thought that crypto, especially bitcoin, is untraceable and is primarily used for nefarious purposes, “but that’s a huge misconception.”
“That’s because blockchain, the technology that underpins bitcoin, is a public ledger of activity,” he said. “It’s therefore possible to track the movements of funds from one account to another quite easily.”
Furthermore, Ma said “liquidity in crypto is still a fraction of the global currency market, and hence moving large amounts of money using crypto is difficult and unlikely to be unnoticed.”
“Many of them likely oppose what their country is doing, and a ban would hurt them, too,” he tweeted. “That said, if the US government decides to impose a ban, we will of course follow those laws.”
‘An Open Ledger’
Armstrong added that “sanctions are a complex issue, and the situation is changing fast, so we’ll keep working with law enforcement and governments, and will take more steps as needed.”
“We’ll also of course keep working to enable crypto services for the people of Ukraine who are in need of help,” he said
Armstrong added that “we don’t think there’s a high risk of Russian oligarchs using crypto to avoid sanctions.”
“Because it is an open ledger, trying to sneak lots of money through crypto would be more traceable than using U.S. dollars cash, art, gold, or other assets,” he said.
David Lesperance, managing partner of immigration and tax adviser at Lesperance & Associates, said “crypto exchanges are finding themselves in a difficult position regarding the Ukrainian crisis.”
“On the one hand, they are legally obligated to adhere to sanctions put on certain Russians and freeze any accounts that they can identify as belonging to named individuals,” he said. “On the other hand, they are hesitating to join the increasing number of multi-national corporations who are denying their goods or services to ALL Russians.”
Such a move, Lesperance said, “would anger their existing customers who view access to crypto for ordinary Russians as a financial lifeline when they are seeking traditional banks and the central bank being frozen out or closing their doors.”
He noted that one clear outcome of the Ukrainian crisis is that governments worldwide are united and racing to quickly put know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering regulations on crypto-exchanges, NFTs and DeFi.
“This will extinguish any lingering fantasies that any of these areas will magically escape the standard regulatory regime imposed on the rest of the financial world,” he said.