The head of Russia’s largest bank is said to have praised virtual currencies, suggesting that the bank may even enter the market if demand continues.

Online reports suggest that Sberbank CEO Herman Gref was bullish on virtual currencies during a discussion with journalists in Moscow this week. If there is demand for a virtual currency, the bank could move in that direction, he said.

Gref is also said to have singled out Yandex Money as a first step in the direction of a virtual currency. While not itself classified as money, Yandex is an Internet payment system popular in Russia, and is supported as a payment mechanism by organisations including Skype.

For virtual currency to become mainstream, however, it would need regulation, said Gref, who was also reported as saying that virtual currency “‘experiments’ must end in one or two crashes” before they are firmly established. Russia has been relatively silent on regulation of virtual currencies to date.

Any endorsement of virtual currency by Sberbank would be a significant boost for its prospects in Russia and elsewhere. The organisation is the largest bank in Russia and Eastern Europe. Bulgarian bitcoin exchange BTC-E facilities fiat exchanges via Sberbank.

The news, reported on both Russian and English language-speaking websites, comes just days after Western bank JP Morgan Chase was said to be building its own digital currency for use with electronic wallets.

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