Russia watchdog blocks digital currency websites in fresh crackdown

Russia has launched a fresh crackdown on the digital currency industry, this time banning access to local digital currency-related websites. The country’s telecom regulator deems the websites to be going against a law that prohibits the use of digital currencies as a means of payment.

BestChange.ru, an aggregator of Russian over-the-counter (OTC) platform providers, was the first to reveal the new ban. In a post on local social media platform VK, the aggregator revealed that it was once again the victim of a ban by the Roskomnadzor, Russia’s media and telecom regulator. It urged its users to turn to VPN service to bypass the restrictions. They can also access the platform via mirror websites such as BestChange.net.

The ban affected a number of other popular websites, including coinpost.ru, prostocoin.com, cryptorussia.ru and cryptowikipedia.ru.

Roskomnadzor filed a complaint in court blocking the sites, which the court approved, a BestChange executive revealed. In its complaint, the regulator claimed the sites were offering “to buy Bitcoin, an electronic currency and certain products using this currency.”

In Russia, the law prohibits the use of digital currencies as a means of payment. The websites were therefore breaking the law by providing information about such services, necessitating the ban, Roskomnadzor argued.

BestChange refuted the claims, with the executive stating: “Our website only provides information on up-to-date exchange rates by exchangers, who, by the way, also do not advertise crypto as a payment method.”

The platform further decried the execution of the court’s orders, claiming that the regulator never affords it a chance to defend itself. Roskomnadzor allegedly never informed BestChange about the legal proceedings, with the platform hearing about the lawsuit ‘accidentally.’ It plans to appeal the decision, but this may take months.

This isn’t the first time that the regulator has moved to ban BestChange. In 2017, Roskomnadzor obtained a court order to ban access to the site, leaving its users to rely on VPN services to bypass the restrictions. In March 2019, the regulator once again banned the service. Despite the ban, its popularity has soared, with 3.3 million users in July 2020.

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