Binance will not block Russian accounts after Ukraine request

The logo of cryptocurrency exchange Binance displayed on a phone screen.

Jakub Porzycki | NurPhoto via Getty Images

Binance said on Monday it will not “unilaterally” freeze the accounts of Russian users, after Ukraine’s vice prime minister called on major cryptocurrency exchanges to take such action.

“We are not going to unilaterally freeze millions of innocent users’ accounts,” a spokesperson for Binance, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange, told CNBC.

“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, asked major exchanges to block the addresses of Russian users.

“It’s crucial to freeze not only the addresses linked to Russian and Belarusian politicians, but also to sabotage ordinary users,” Fedorov said in a tweet.

Belarus is a Russian ally.

Russia continues to attack major cities across Ukraine, but the country’s forces are believed to have mostly held off Russian advances.

The U.S. and European Union have responded with sanctions targeting Russian banks, sovereign debt, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and the leader himself. The Russian ruble has plunged as a result.

Binance said it is “taking the steps necessary to ensure we take action against those that have had sanctions levied against them while minimizing impact to innocent users.”

“Should the international community widen those sanctions further, we will apply those aggressively as well,” a company spokesperson added.

Binance said it would block the accounts of any individuals on sanctions lists and was “ensuring that all sanctions are met in full.”

CNBC also reached out to other major cryptocurrency exchanges asking if they will freeze Russian user accounts, but has yet to hear back.

Jesse Powell, CEO of Kraken, another major cryptocurrency exchange, said on Twitter Monday that the company “cannot freeze the accounts of our Russian clients without a legal requirement to do so.”

However, Dmarket, a platform that allows people to trade virtual in-game items, said it had cut “all relationships with Russia and Belarus due to the invasion of Ukraine,” in a statement on Twitter.

The company said users from Russia and Belarus were prohibited from registering with Dmarket and the accounts of users from the countries had been frozen. The Russian ruble has been removed from the platform, according to Dmarket, which called itself a “Ukrainian-born startup.”

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