Binance Denies Sharing Users Data with Russian Intelligence Agencies

Binance exchange has responded to allegations by Reuters that its Russian subsidiary has close ties to the country’s financial regulator called Rosfinmonitoring.


In the Reuters report, it was alleged that Binance shared its user data with Rosfinmonitoring in a bid to track down donations made to the opposition leader, Alexei Navalny.

Binance categorically called the Reuters report a “false narrative” and provided a context in which its relationship with Rosfin was no different from those it had with other regulators in other countries. 

Binance said the allegations that it shares user’s data with the law enforcement agencies are misconstrued and that as a business operating in Russia, it is obligated to respond to any request from a regulator requiring it to provide any information regarding its operations, provided it is within the confines of the law.

With Binance disagreeing with the Reuters publication, the exchange said it would be filing an official complaint based on the media platform’s own editorial code.

“Reuters, one of the most esteemed and trusted news agencies, published this article that completely contradicts the reputation this outlet has built over the years and is not representative of our experience working with countless other journalists in their organisation, ” the exchange wrote. To this end, we will be writing a formal complaint to Reuters under their own editorial code..”

Binance unequivocally stated that it is not assisting the Russian government in its effort to crack down on Alexei Navalny and that it is the only exchange to have implemented the latest sanctions levied on Russia by the European Union Council with the newly introduced restrictions as reported by Blockchain.News.

In its bid to foster transparency, Binance published the email trail of conversations between its head of Eastern Europe and Russia, Gleb Kostarev, and the Reuters journalists detailing the exchange of information that led to the allegation publication. 

Binance is always in the cross-hairs with media firms. Back in October 2020, Forbes published an allegation that Binance.US was established in order to distract regulators in a bid to evade its tax obligations. The exchange came out to deny the report as well.

Image source: Shutterstock


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Russian tech and political executives denounce crypto ban proposal

Russia’s recent ban on crypto has drawn criticism from a number of big names, including Alexei Navalny’s chief of staff Leonid Volkov, and Telegram founder Pavel Durov.

On Jan. 20, Russia’s Central Bank published a report proposing a blanket ban on domestic crypto trading and mining. The report stated that the risks of crypto are “much higher for emerging markets, including Russia.”

However, it appears that this proposed ban isn’t universally accepted in the former Soviet Union. A Jan. 22 post by the Telegram founder, Pavel Durov stated that the proposed ban on crypto would “destroy a number of sectors of the high-tech economy.” He added:

“Such a ban will inevitably slow down the development of blockchain technologies in general. These technologies improve the efficiency and safety of many human activities, from finance to the arts.”

While Durov conceded that the “desire to regulate the circulation of cryptocurrencies is natural on the part of any financial authority,” he concluded that “such a ban is unlikely to stop unscrupulous players, but it will put an end to legal Russian projects in this area.”

Leonid Volkov: banning crypto is “impossible”

Meanwhile, in a Telegram post on Jan 20. Volkov, who is the chief of staff for Alexei Navalny, wrote that the ban would be like “calling a spade a spade.”

Navalny is an opposition leader in Russia and founder of The Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). In August 2020, he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. After recovering in Germany, he returned to Russia in January 2021 where he was arrested and has remained imprisoned since.

In his announcement, Volkov referenced a Jan. 20 report by Bloomberg. It claimed that Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) was instrumental in advancing the ban because crypto can be used to finance “non-systemic opposition and extremist organizations.”

He went on to add that he was “sure that the Bloomberg version, in this case, is 100% close to reality, but nothing will happen” because Russians are more likely to use crypto to buy drugs rather than donate it to the Moscow-based non-profit FBK.

“Technically, banning cryptocurrency is the same as banning person-to-person transfers (i.e. it’s impossible)… Yes, they can make it very difficult to deposit funds on crypto exchanges, which means that intermediary services will simply appear that will do this through foreign jurisdictions. Yes, transaction costs will rise. Well, that’s all, I guess.”

Related: Bank of Russia governor: Banning crypto in Russia is ‘quite doable’

Many of Russia’s neighbors have also taken a hard-line stance on crypto. On Jan. 19, citizens in neighboring country Georgia were made to swear an oath to cease mining crypto. The governments of Kosovo and Kazakhstan, have also recently been added to the list of countries that have banned crypto mining.

Perhaps one exception is Russia’s neighbor Ukraine, which passed a number of laws to facilitate the country’s adoption of cryptocurrencies in September 2021.


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Russia’s Detained Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny receives $120,000 in Bitcoin Donations as Protests Rage in Moscow

Russian’s are using Bitcoin to support detained political opposition leader Alexei Navalny who was recently arrested at Moscow airport on Jan. 17 under the guise of a 2014 conviction.

Russia’s Detained Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny receives $120,000 in Bitcoin Donations as Protests Rage in Moscow

Since the arrest of Navalny, over 40,000 Russians flooded the streets of Moscow to demand Vladimir Putin’s staunchest political opponent be released over the weekend. Further to the protest—a Bitcoin address associated with Navalny’s political party has received $120,000 in support via BTC.

Russia Shows Support Through Bitcoin

Alexei Navalny is a lawyer turned activist who began criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin in the 2000s. He announced his presidential candidacy in 2016.

On Jan. 17, Russian police in Moscow arrested opposition leader Navalny at the Moscow airport after he had landed from an inbound flight from Berlin. Russian Officials are adamant that the arrest has to do with a 2014 conviction.

According to Reuters, Europe’s top human rights court ruled that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s conviction for fraud in 2014 had been “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable” and ordered Russia to pay him compensation. For all intents and purposes—Russian officials now hold Navalny for a crime he has already been acquitted after proving with high certainty that the money laundering charges had been fabricated.

Upon his arrest on Jan. 17, Navalny called for a nation-wide protest and Russian citizens complied in the face of the authoritarian regime, with thousands of protestors pouring in to the nation’s capital. Vladimir Putin has since called the protests both illegal and dangerous. As reported by the BBC, more than 3000 protestors were arrested in Moscow throughout the course of the protest.

Navalny leads the political party ‘Foundation for Combating Corruption (FBK)’ which is a not for profit organization. The group’s “headquarter” website, as linked on FBK’s homepage, does accept donations via wire transfer, PayPal, and Bitcoin.

Since the arrest, the party’s Bitcoin address has received over $120,000 in donations of support—or around 3.5 BTC. In the party’s lifetime, since the addition of the BTC donation option, Russian’s have donate a total of 657.1 BTC which equates to over $21 million to Putin’s opponent and the donations continue to arrive at the address.

Leveraging Bitcoin is nothing new in public protests and organized mass operations—reports of Hong Kong protestors receiving Bitcoin donations circulated during the 2019 protest against China’s national security law, and recently it has been reported that BTC donations were made to finance the U.S. Capitol riots.

Navalny and Democracy Under Attack

Since his announcement to run for President in 2016, Navalny has faced severe criticism from the government, particularly for his scathing reports against current President Vladimir Putin.

Navalny has been jailed on account of the reportedly illegitimate charges of 2014 and has been poisoned on several occasions, with the most recent attempt made in August, which sent him into a coma. Exiting President Trump was heavily criticized for appearing to turn a blind eye to the signs of political repression occurring in Russia.

Navalny has since found support from newly confirmed President Joe Biden’s administration, asking for his release.

“We call on Russian authorities to release all those detained for exercising their universal rights and for the immediate and unconditional release of Alexei Navalny,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday, echoing a statement from the State Department from over the weekend.

Ms Psaki also reiterated calls for Russia to “cooperate” with the international investigation into Mr Navalny’s poisoning in August 2020 and to “credibly explain” the use of a chemical weapon, Novichok, on one of its own citizens.

Image source: Shutterstock


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