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Crypto Exchange Binance Closes Accounts Of Individuals With Links To Russian Government

Binance announced on Thursday that it has closed several accounts associated with relatives of Russian officials since the beginning of the war with Ukraine, following last week’s announcement that the exchange was limiting services in the country.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s stepdaughter and the daughter of President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, have both had their accounts blocked since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Binance’s head of sanctions told Bloomberg. 

Binance also revealed that the son of Konstantin Malofeev, a Russian oligarch who was indicted by the US Department of Justice for violating US sanctions, has also been blocked as the exchange continues to search for users with links to sanctioned individuals. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brought with it a raft of financial sanctions aimed at limiting the country’s ability to continue its war. Although the sanctions have, so far, failed to discourage President Putin. 

Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation, welcomed the news in a tweet on Friday, saying “everyone connected with Putin’s regime will feel the consequences of war.”

The first accounts were blocked on March 3, while Malofeev’s son had his account closed this week after he was added to the US Treasury’s Russia-related designations on April 20, according to Bloomberg’s report.

None of the affected individuals responded to requests for comment, according to Bloomberg. 

Political leaders in Europe and the U.S. have focused their attention on cryptocurrencies several times since the war began, fearing that Russia might use crypto to sidestep sanctions.

Until recently most major exchanges maintained that crypto was a terrible means of avoiding sanctions. Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao told CNN this month that crypto was too traceable and that governments were improving how they track crypto transactions.

However, last week Binance revealed in a blog post that it was enforcing tougher Know Your Customer (KYC) checks for Russian users due to the latest European Union’s fifth package of anti-Russia sanctions.

Specifically it was aimed at “Russian nationals or natural persons residing in Russia, or legal entities established in Russia” with crypto holdings exceeding €10,000 (just under $11,000). These restrictions won’t apply to Russian’s living outside of the country, who can verify their address, and those within the country who hold less than €10,000.

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