Binance CEO Zhao Suggests Exchange Might Still Allow Russian Users

While the crypto exchange's EU entities have complied with sanctions against Russia, the decision isn't as clear outside of Europe, the Binance CEO said.

AccessTimeIconNov 2, 2022 at 2:38 p.m. UTC
Updated May 9, 2023 at 4:01 a.m. UTC

LISBON — The head of the largest cryptocurrency exchange by volume said new and stronger EU sanctions have created a "tricky situation" for dealing with Russian users.

"We are not against any people," said Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, holding a press conference during the Web Summit here on Wednesday. "We are against dictatorships of war. We’re not against the population. But as a business, we’re licensed in many different places. We have to follow the rules," he added.

  • Some Pro-Russian Groups Using Crypto to Fund Paramilitary Operations: TRM Labs
    Some Pro-Russian Groups Using Crypto to Fund Paramilitary Operations: TRM Labs
  • Binance’s Bid to Buy Voyager’s Assets Complicated by National Security Concern: Sources
    Binance’s Bid to Buy Voyager’s Assets Complicated by National Security Concern: Sources
  • US Treasury Sued for Sanctioning Crypto Mixer Tornado Cash
    US Treasury Sued for Sanctioning Crypto Mixer Tornado Cash
  • Ethereum Mining Pool Cuts All Services to Russia
    Ethereum Mining Pool Cuts All Services to Russia
  • Asked by CoinDesk whether Binance will follow the decisions of LocalBitcoins,, Kraken and other peers to expel their Russian users, Zhao said he did not have a definitive answer yet.

    "It's a tricky situation," he said. While Binance's licensed entities in Europe – France, Italy, Spain, Lithuania, and Sweden among them – definitely wouldn't be able to serve Russian citizens because of sanctions since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, he said the question is less straightforward in jurisdictions outside the EU.

    "We are communicating with the regulators on whether it's OK for us to service Russian users," he added. "How it plays out internationally, we have to see. We're waiting for expert recommendations. It’s a tough situation."

    Zhao has previously called Russia a "key market" for Binance, and the exchange has been fairly popular in that country.

    Russian citizens' accounts at EU-based crypto services have been being shut down for the last month after the bloc added to its sanctions regime against Russia to punish the country for the ongoing war in Ukraine.

    The new rules expanded an earlier ban on digital wallets for Russian citizens containing more than 10,000 euros worth of assets. In the latest iteration introduced Oct. 6, the sanctions prohibited crypto asset wallet, account or custody services to Russian citizens, residents and legal entities, "irrespective of the amount."

    Major European-based crypto services, including LocalBitcoins, and, immediately sent Russian users notifications that their accounts would soon be discontinued. Kraken, a U.S.-based exchange with branches in Europe, also restricted accounts of Russian citizens, the Russian-language news website Forklog reported.

    Unsurprisingly given such a broad policy, there appear to be at least some cases where sanctions penalized Russians who did not support the war in Ukraine and did not live in Russia, CoinDesk reported.

    Crypto appears to be where these sanctions have hit the hardest because there have been no similar measures regarding bank accounts for Russian citizens residing in Europe. Also, while the EU is gradually reducing its dependence on Russia’s oil and gas, the latest sanctions still allow European operators in certain cases to help Russia transport its oil for sale in third countries.

    The focus is somewhat baffling to Zhao, who said at his press conference, "Why are the sanctions harder on crypto services than on banks?"


    Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

    CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.

    Anna Baydakova

    Anna Baydakova was CoinDesk's investigative reporter with a special focus on Eastern Europe and Russia. Anna owns BTC and an NFT.

    Read more about