Just as US President Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin also has a playbook that involves making your public look the other way in case of crisis. Whereas Russia had a terrible Covid-19 experience which saw levels of support for Putin drop to historic lows, the Kremlin might now be thinking of pleasing the country’s younger voting base by turning, just like China with it’s ‘digital yuan’ to a ‘digital rouble’ and enter the world of blockchain and crypto.
Sberbank and the state
Russia’s oldest and largest bank is called Sberbank. It hold about half of the country’s personal deposits and thus knows very well what Russians buy and spend their roubles on. As it is run by Herman Gref, Chairman and CEO, the Kremlin appointed former minister of Economics and Trade, any move that he makes can be directly linked to Putin.
And thus when news broke that Sberbank aims to purchase 5000 ATMs capable of doing blockchain operations, the internet went abuzz with ‘digital ruble’.
If it were true that the Kremlin would indeed be thinking of starting its own digital currency in the future, then it can learn from neighboring China, which launched it’s own Digital Yuan earlier this year. In fact, Chinese state employees can now earn part of their salary in that cryptocurrency as from this month. As the Beijing government kindly ‘advises’ them to do so, it is clear that the rollout will be an enormous success.
For Russia it would be quite the turnaround though if they do decide to go the way of a digital currency, as Vladimir Putin has long been critical of cryptocoins. For him, they represent something that the Kremlin might be unable to control.
Alexander Chepurnoy, co-founder of Ergo blockchain platform, thought that the Sberbank ordered ATM’s could also be used for cryptocurrency mining operations if needed, but indeed said it was strange that the biggest Russian bank would be making such a turnaround.
To be followed up for sure.