Gazprombank, the third-largest bank in Russia, plans to conduct cryptocurrency transactions in Switzerland later this year as part of a pilot program through its Swiss subsidiary.
Aleksandr Sobol, the deputy chairman of Gazprombank, said the state-owned bank decided to try out crypto deals in response to demand from several major private clients.
“This will not be on a grand scale, but for ourselves,” Sobol told Vedomosti. “This is a demand from our large private clients for such amenities. Therefore, we are now looking at how we can organize this service for them.”
In January 2018, Sberbank — Russia’s largest bank — announced plans to open its own cryptocurrency exchange in Switzerland, as they are not allowed in Russia.
As CCN previously reported, Sberbank also recently opened a blockchain lab in Switzerland to test blockchain projects. As of January 2018, Sberbank said it had more than 20 blockchain-based pilot projects under development.
Russian regulators are drafting cryptocurrency regulations under the Digital Assets Regulation Bill. A final version, which will be released in July, will legalize and set guidelines for initial coin offerings, blockchain technologies, and crypto mining.
While Russian president Vladimir Putin initially expressed skepticism about bitcoin and the virtual currency market because they are unregulated and not backed by a central bank, he has since softened his stance in recognition of the ballooning market and demand.
In fact, Russia plans to launch its own cryptocurrency called the CryptoRuble, in part to circumvent U.S. economic sanctions.
Russia Aims to Be Crypto Powerhouse
Cryptocurrency mining has mushroomed in Russia. Dmitry Marinichev, President Putin’s internet ombudsman, is currently overseeing the construction of the Russian Mining Center, which he hopes will transform the country into a digital currency powerhouse.
Marinichev and his partners have invested $10 million into the Russian Mining Center, and also recently raised $43 million through an initial coin offering, according to CNN. “This is a new milestone in the development of mankind,” Marinichev gushed.
Russian cryptocurrency entrepreneurs are equally bullish about the future of bitcoin, crypto mining, and blockchain technology.
“I think blockchain will repeat the history of the internet and probably even be bigger than the internet itself,” said Alexander Ivanov, a former physicist who runs the Russian blockchain platform Waves.
Business owner Boris Akimov agrees. Akimov, whose Moscow-based restaurant Lavkalavka accepts bitcoin, believes crypto is not a passing fad. “Cryptocurrency is a way to change the whole financial system in the world,” he said.