Crypto Exchange Binance Is Back in Russia, Lifts Restrictions on Russian Users: Report

Users in Russia report they once again can use locally issued Mastercard and Visa cards to deposit money on the crypto exchange more than a year following a wartime prohibition on such transactions.

AccessTimeIconApr 24, 2023 at 9:10 p.m. UTC
Updated May 9, 2023 at 4:13 a.m. UTC

Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, quietly lifted restrictions on Russian citizens and residents it had imposed over a year ago. In March 2022, after the European Union placed sanctions on Russia in response to its attack on Ukraine, Binance announced it would not support deposits from Visa and Mastercard cards issued in Russia, as well as any Visa and Mastercard deposits made from the Russia.

Now, the restriction seems to be gone: Users can deposit Russian rubles, euros, British pounds and other currencies from bank cards issued in Russia, crypto news website Forklog reported on Saturday.

Earlier in April, Russian users also reported that Binance lifted limits for accounts with balances larger than 10,000 euros for users in Russia. The exchange has not officially released a statement on either of these changes.

When contacted today by CoinDesk, a Binance spokesperson did not explicitly confirm or deny the lifting of restrictions, but stated in an email: “All current restrictions related to sanctions against Russian nationals are applied by the platform and its legal entities in the European Union in full.”

Last year’s ban on Russian bank cards came after the EU and the U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia invading Ukraine. Most Russian banks were cut off from the international interbank settlement network SWIFT. Both Visa and Mastercard suspended their operations in Russia in March 2022, however cards issued before that month that haven't expired yet still work domestically, but are now processed by the local payment network National Payment Cards System.

Last spring, the EU broadened its sanctions and prohibited crypto services from serving Russian users with account balances over 10,000 euros. In the fall, that threshold was eliminated, making it impossible for Russian citizens and residents to use any crypto service registered in the EU. Immediately, LocalBitcoins, and notified Russian users that their accounts would soon be discontinued.

When Binance announced the 10,000-euro limit for users inside Russia, it stated “the EU’s fifth package of restrictive measures against Russia” required the limitations. While the sanctions are still in place, this restriction no longer exists on Binance, according to media reports, and neither does the Russian bank cards ban. Last month, however, Binance prohibited peer-to-peer (p2p) trades in dollars and euros for Russian citizens and residents, leaving only the Russian ruble option. The Binance spokesperson confirmed this restriction remains.

Speaking at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, in October, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao said Binance abides by the sanctions but some of its legal entities outside of the EU might still be able to serve Russians. “We are against dictatorships of war. We’re not against the population," Zhao said.

CLARIFICATION (APRIL 27, 2023, 22:38 UTC): Added information that Visa and Mastercard are no longer processing payments in Russia or internationally, although their cards can still be used within the country.

Edited by Jeanhee Kim.


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Anna Baydakova

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

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