Russia held its first major bitcoin event in Moscow this week, Bitcoin Conference Russia, featuring a host of speakers from the local region, overseas guests, and even Russia's first bitcoin vending kiosk/ATM.
— Bitcoin Conference (@BitcoinConfRu) April 23, 2014
There had been some confusion over whether the conference was actually going ahead, thanks to a prohibitive regulatory climate surrounding digital currency in Russia, and the earlier 'indefinite postponement' of a rival conference, Moscow Bitcoins, that was scheduled for last month.
A highlight of the conference came when one speaker was asked whether bitcoin was banned in Russia. The reply was: "Nobody knows, and nobody cares."
International speakers at the event included the well-known Roger Ver, as well as George Basiladze of UK payment processor Cryptopay and Dr Bastian Brand, Investment Manager of the Pathfinder Cryptocurrency Fund (PCF) at Pathfinder Capital in Germany.
Local startup and bitcoin news service CoinSpot even brought a Lamassu bitcoin ATM/vending kiosk to demonstrate at the event.
Current legal status
As in neighboring China, rumors of a government ban remain just that – a rumour – and there has been no official statement other than denials of a ban by the authorities themselves.
A recent request for clarification received the response that authorities were mainly interested in “combating crimes in the sphere of the economy".
That said, it appears the government is discouraging bitcoin use from becoming widespread, with blocks on some deposits and withdrawals from exchanges. Funding of Russian rouble accounts on the region's most popular exchange, BTC-e, was stopped in February.
Technically, Russians are still not allowed to fund BTC-e rouble accounts via the most popular method, payment processor OKPAY.
Russian sources tell us, however, it is still possible to fund accounts indirectly by depositing funds into an OKPAY rouble account and transferring for free to Payeer, another processor, and forwarding those funds to BTC-e.
Since 19th March, it has also been possible to transfer to BTC-e via Yandex Money at no charge, though there is a two-day waiting period for funds to clear. Withdrawals are also indirect.
Users can move their funds to Yandex Money for a 2.5-5% fee and a 12-hour waiting period, or move funds first back to Payeer and then into a Yandex/QIWI Visa debit card.
There's also the option to withdraw US dollars to a Visa or Mastercard account, but the $1,000 minimum is higher than the average monthly salary in Russia. There are also options to transfer money to OKPAY and that company's payment cards via US dollar or Euro accounts, but this must also be done indirectly.
Moscow Image via Shutterstock