Russia’s Qiwi Pushes Ahead With Controversial ‘BitRuble’ Project

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While the number of major global banks announcing blockchain tech trials continues to escalate, Russian payments company Qiwi remains a rarity in its home country of Russia.

The payment service announced last September it had built a proprietary digital currency called the ‘BitRuble’, a project that received widespread interest due to the negative climate for the technology in Russia. There, the country’s legislative assembly has been working for over a year on a law that would outlaw some uses of bitcoin.

In a new interview, however, Qiwi indicated that it is still seeking to move forward with the project, and that discussion about the technology in Russia is now becoming more nuanced.

While Russian government officials and agencies initially spoke out against the trial, one going so far as to label it ‘technical hooliganism’, Qiwi said it has now had the opportunity to explain its interest in bitcoin and the blockchain.


But, while Qiwi communications director Konstantin Koltsov told CoinDesk that it believes the talks are becoming more constructive, he said there is still uncertainty surrounding applications of the technology, such as its proposed ‘BitRuble’ initiative.

Koltsov said:

“This project can be effective for our market, but there are still misunderstandings concerning the technological and regulatory issues.”

Koltsov said regulators are beginning to educate themselves on the technology, but that such conversations are developing slowly.

To date, Koltsov said Qiwi has presented its vision for blockchain to the central bank, which recently launched a working group to explore the technology, as well as the state Duma and the Ural Forum of Information Technology and Communications.

Three issues

As for how these talks are progressing, Koltsov said he sees three topics of conversation and debate emerging.

For example, Koltsov said that all participants are looking for ways to better identify users within blockchain environments, a development that points to the continued effects of the perception that bitcoin is anonymous rather than pseudonymous, and interest in blockchain analytics firms among global banks.

Koltsov said Qiwi aims to help more domestic institutions develop a familiarity with the technology.

“We understand that there can’t be the only one beneficiary in blockchain and crypto-products development and are preparing to bring tech issues to the whole market environment,” he said.

Koltsov suggested that Qiwi is open to discussing projects and sharing data with interested parties that can help it evolve new financial and non-financial products.

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