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Coinbase Joins Kraken and Binance in Not Banning Russian Accounts

Brian Armstrong – CEO of Coinbase – refused to freeze Russian users’ assets at his exchange despite officials’ calls to help financially cripple Russia.

Damage From Russian Sanctions

Similar to the CEOs of Kraken and Binance, Armstrong cited financial sovereignty and crypto-centric values as reasons to continue protecting Russian accounts.

“We believe everyone deserves access to basic financial services unless the law says otherwise.” said Armstrong in a Twitter thread discussing the matter on Friday.

Coinbase ($COIN) CEO Says Russians Use Bitcoin (BTC USD) on Ruble (RUB USD) Drop - Bloomberg
Brian Armstrong. Source: Bloomberg

After Russia invaded Ukraine last week, western nations were quick to crack down on the nation with heavy sanctions. The United States has frozen the assets of four of Russia’s largest banks. Meanwhile, US allies have collaborated to cut off Russia from SWIFT.

Even the private sector is voluntarily getting involved. For instance, the Glasgow film festival has decided to withdraw two Russian productions from screening. Within the crypto industry, Flexpool – the fifth-largest Ethereum mining pool – has opted to stop servicing its Russian users.

These sanctions have led to a collapse of the Russian ruble, making it more difficult for Russian citizens to protect their savings or buy basic necessities.

Now, some crypto community members are questioning whether these measures are entirely ethical. Also, they wonder if they’re inadvertently hurting the wrong people.

Ethics of Freezing Crypto

For example, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov pressured crypto exchanges last week to freeze Russian accounts to deliberately “sabotage” ordinary users. The community was mostly hostile to this approach – despite being highly supportive of Ukraine’s overall cause through various crypto donations.

Crypto exchange owners have echoed the same sentiment. Refusing Fedorov’s request, Kraken CEO Jesse Powell explained that Bitcoin is the “embodiment of libertarian values.” Also, he added that his exchange focuses “on individual needs above those of any government or political faction.”

The following day, a spokesperson from Binance – the world’s largest crypto exchange – responded similarly. “We are not going to unilaterally freeze millions of innocent users’ accounts,” a spokesperson told CNBC.

Armstrong also noted that ordinary Russian citizens – many of which oppose the war – are now using crypto as a “lifeline” to protect their wealth and sovereignty. Nevertheless, like Powell, he promised to follow the law. To this end, they will continue to block services belonging to sanctioned individuals and entities.

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Former presidential candidate Hilary Clinton showed disappointment in the response from these crypto exchanges. Furthermore, she mocked their libertarian values. Previously, Clinton warned about how Bitcoin could undermine the global supremacy of the US dollar.

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