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Crypto exchanges choose ‘financial freedom’ and refuse to block Russian users

February 28, 2022, 4:08 PM UTC

Despite the call from Ukraine’s vice prime minister asking cryptocurrency exchanges to block all Russian user accounts, trading is likely to continue much the same as normal.

Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, says it has no plans for a unilateral freeze, though it said it would block the accounts of specific individuals who are affected by the sanctions.

“We are not going to unilaterally freeze millions of innocent users’ accounts,” the company told Fortune in a statement. “Crypto is meant to provide greater financial freedom for people across the globe. To unilaterally decide to ban people’s access to their crypto would fly in the face of the reason why crypto exists.”

On Sunday, Mykhailo Fedorov, the vice prime minister of Ukraine, called for a blanket ban on Russian cryptocurrency trades via Twitter, saying, “It’s crucial to freeze not only the addresses linked to Russian and Belarusian politicians, but also to sabotage ordinary users.”

Russia is a major market for Binance, which counts more than 113,000 members in its Russian-language Telegram channel. The company did note that should international sanctions be further expanded it would “apply those aggressively as well.”

Binance wasn’t the only crypto exchange to reject the call for a complete blackout of Russian traders. Jesse Powell, CEO of the Kraken exchange, said he understood the reasoning behind the request, but was also declining.

“Our mission at [Kraken] is to bridge individual humans out of the legacy financial system and bring them into the world of crypto, where arbitrary lines on maps no longer matter, where they don’t have to worry about being caught in broad, indiscriminate wealth confiscation,” he wrote. “Our mission is better served by focusing on individual needs above those of any government or political faction…Besides, if we were going to voluntarily freeze financial accounts of residents of countries unjustly attacking and provoking violence around the world, Step 1 would be to freeze all U.S. accounts. As a practical matter, that’s not really a viable business option for us.”

Crypto companies aren’t turning a blind eye to the crisis, however. Binance, on Monday, pledged to donate at least $10 million to humanitarian efforts addressing the growing refugee problem.

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