Russia's central bank is planning to showcase a prototype for its ruble-backed digital currency later this year, according to its deputy chairman, Alexey Zabotkin.
Speaking at an online event hosted by the Russian Economic School, a Moscow-based private college, Zabotkin explained the prototype would be available for people to "kick its tires," but won't support any real money transactions.
"Next year, based on that prototype and any additional developments needed, we will start testing it," Zabotkin said, as reported by news agency Prime on Wednesday.
The comments show that, despite the earlier controversy caused by the central bank digital currency (CBDC) project among regulators and Russia's financial industry players, the Bank of Russia is still moving forward with the idea.
"The absolute majority of the feedback we got on our report, 83% of it, supported the idea of the digital ruble," the Bank of Russia's press office told CoinDesk in an email.
"We're keeping on with the plan we earlier revealed. At this point, we're in the process of developing the design of the digital ruble, which will be public and discussed with the market participants. The decision on the launch will be made next year based on testing results," the press office added.
The project was unveiled in October, when the Bank of Russia published an analytical report outlining the possible design of a ruble-backed CBDC. The report suggested several scenarios for the digital ruble's operations and requested public feedback. Listed benefits of the project include the ability to track government spending more effectively and to provide digital payment options in areas where internet connections are scarce.
Back then, Bank of Russia Chairwoman Elvira Nabiullina said it hasn't been decided yet if the digital ruble would actually be issued, but the concept was "promising." She also said the central bank would likely pilot the system for testing and public feedback in late 2021, and then take the decision on whether to move to a launch.
Following the publishing of the report, Russian banks and fintech companies expressed concerns the models proposed for the digital ruble were excessively centralized and could harm private banks' business, making them compete with the central bank.
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