‘Ethereum is neutral, but I am not’: Russian-born Ethereum cofounder Vitalik Buterin blasts Putin for Ukraine invasion as crypto nose-dives

February 24, 2022, 7:58 AM UTC

Vitalik Buterin, the Russian-Canadian cofounder of the Ethereum blockchain, condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Twitter minutes after Russia announced a “special military operation” in Ukraine, effectively declaring war on the Eastern European country.

On Wednesday evening, Buterin wrote that he was “very upset by Putin’s decision” to abandon peaceful solutions in Russia’s dispute with Ukraine and to “start a war instead.”

“This is a crime against the Ukrainian and Russian people,” he wrote. “I want to wish everyone safety and security, even though I know there won’t be.”

Buterin added: “Reminder: Ethereum is neutral, but I am not.”

Cryptocurrency prices tumbled after Putin’s announcement. On Thursday morning, Bitcoin prices dropped roughly 3.8% to $35,031.86, while Ethereum fell 5.2% to $2,388.98. In the past week, Bitcoin plunged nearly 20%, while Ethereum slumped 22% over mounting Ukraine-Russia tensions, undercutting the theory that cryptocurrency prices can withstand geopolitical events that roil traditional financial markets.

Bitcoin’s “safe haven narrative has almost completely fallen apart as the rising possibility of military conflict and the worsening U.S.-Russia relationship puts the wider financial market in risk-aversion mode,” Yuya Hasegawa, crypto market analyst at Japanese crypto exchange Bitbank, wrote in a Tuesday note.

Putin said in his televised speech that Russia’s military operations will focus on “demilitarizing” and “de-nazifying” Ukraine. “Our plans do not include occupying Ukrainian territory,” the Russian leader claimed.

On Wednesday evening, several media outlets such as CNN and Politico reported a “steady stream of explosions” in several Ukrainian cities, including in capital city Kyiv and the country’s second-largest city Kharkiv. Oleksiy Sorokin, a reporter for Ukrainian outlet Kyiv Independent, tweeted: “Subways packed, streets also, people [are gathering] with loved ones and [trying] to flee.” Ukraine has also shut down its airspace for civilian flights, citing the high risks to aviation safety given the current situation, the Ukrainian State Air Traffic Services Enterprise announced on its website.

Buterin is one of the few business leaders so far to speak out about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Ethereum cofounder earlier this month called on Putin to “choose wisely” in making a decision on Ukraine. “An attack on Ukraine can only harm Russia, Ukraine, and humanity,” he wrote on Twitter.

Buterin, 28, was born in Russia but immigrated to Canada in 2000. Buterin first became interested in Bitcoin when he was 17. He was intrigued by the decentralized features of the digital asset and how it could empower ordinary people. Power is a “zero-sum game,” Buterin told Wired in 2016. “If you talk about empowering the little guy…you are necessarily disempowering the big guy. And personally I say screw the big guy,” he said.

Buterin has often spoken out about philosophy, geopolitics, and the use of blockchain technology for what he refers to as “public goods” like scientific research, news information, and reducing various risks to humanity.

Buterin last year chided Bitcoin “maximalists” for their “uncritical” praise of El Salvador President Nayib Bukele, who was pushing for his country to adopt Bitcoin as its legal tender.

“Making it mandatory for businesses to accept a specific cryptocurrency is contrary to the ideals of freedom that are supposed to be so important to the crypto space,” Buterin said at the time. Bukele’s attempt to foist Bitcoin on “millions of people in El Salvador…with almost no attempt [at] prior education is reckless,” said the Ethereum cofounder.

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