Switzerland Says It Will Freeze Russian-owned Bitcoin and Crypto Assets

According to a report published in the Financial Times on Friday, Switzerland plans to freeze crypto assets held by Russian citizens and Russian businesses located within Switzerland's borders.

Historically neutral Switzerland has not only joined EU sanctions to impose sanctions on Russia, but is also determined to go after the Russians' cryptocurrency.

Switzerland will freeze all crypto assets owned by Russians and EU-sanctioned Russian companies within its borders.

The federal council added on Friday that it aims to comply with the latest sanctions that Brussels has imposed on Moscow over the war in Ukraine, adding that it will include its own provision against cryptocurrencies.

In recent years, Switzerland has become one of the world's largest centers for blockchain-based financial assets.

“As of today, all four EU sanctions packages have been accepted and implemented in Switzerland,” said Guy Parmelin, Swiss Finance Minister. It said that since Monday, the bank accounts and assets of 223 Russians in Switzerland were identified and frozen, including "Russian oligarchs and Putin's relatives."

A senior official from the finance ministry said that an additional step against cryptoassets is necessary as they want to “protect the integrity” of the cryptocurrency industry in the country.

“It is nearly impossible to identify those who hold the crypto key,” the official said. However, we can identify those who use third-party crypto services such as funds, exchanges," he said.

On Wednesday, the European Union announced plans to prevent Russia from avoiding economic sanctions using cryptocurrencies. “We are taking measures, especially with regard to cryptocurrencies or cryptoassets, which should not be used to evade financial sanctions decided by 27 EU countries,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.

Although experts say that Russia's use of cryptocurrencies to evade sanctions will not be as easy as it seems, the EU is considering taking measures to ensure that Russia does not use cryptocurrencies to circumvent economic sanctions. The US and UK governments have also expressed concerns that cryptocurrencies could become a covert way to move money to and from Russia.

Ukraine's deputy prime minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, recently called on crypto exchanges to block Russian users. However, the stock markets did not respond positively to this call. Former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton criticized the stock markets that did not comply with this call.

Coinbase CEO Armstrong said he does not see a high risk of Russian oligarchs using crypto to evade sanctions, as public blockchains make the movement of money more traceable than cash or gold. Armstrong stated that for ordinary Russians, Bitcoin is a “life buoy”.

Unlike Armstrong, some experts think that Russian billionaires and oligarchs have no choice but to Bitcoin and crypto.

Armstrong's words match those of Binance CEO CZ. In his statement, CZ also emphasized that it would not be ethical to block all Russian citizens.

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