As fiat sanctions against Russia have frozen most financial options for Russian citizens and oligarchs alike, many people were turning to Bitcoin and crypto to protect their financial assets. However, many governments, including Ukraine's have called for the freezing of crypto accounts on exchanges.

The initial response from crypto exchanges was protective of users, and generally stood on the side of not banning accounts.

  • The CEO of Coinbase, Brian Armstrong mentioned that the company believes everyone deserves access to basic financial services unless the law says otherwise. He also expresses the understanding that some ordinary and innocent Russians are using crypto as a lifeline since the Russian Ruble has collapsed. 
  • The CEO of Binance, Changpeng Zhao, said that they will not be unilaterally freezing millions of innocent users accounts. 
  • The CEO of Kraken, Jesse Powell, expressed his company's first principles in his response and reiterated their mission which is ,”to better focus on individual needs above any government or political faction. The People’s Money is an exit strategy for humans, a weapon for peace, not war.” 

Sharing a similar outlook on the request to ban accounts as other previous incidents (as in Canada), these large exchanges made it clear that it would be “unethical” to restrict all Russians from participating on the exchange.

Since their initial responses however, they have been forced to comply to international sanctions. These sanctions apply to any individual that lives within a targeted, sanctioned country. According to the Coinbase blog, Coinbase now blocks over 25,000 adresses linked to illicit Russian activity. Doing so involved checking for customers on a list of sanctioned individuals or entities and tracking IP addresses belonging to sanctioned parts of the world.

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