by JP Buntinx
Sberbank, Russia’s largest private bank, is venturing into the world of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. This news comes at a time during which Russian authorities are still on the fence regarding how to tackle cryptocurrency regulation. Although it is only a coffee stand at the bank’s premises accepting Bitcoin payments, this could be a sign of things to come for the future of cryptocurrency in Russia.
Sberbank Coffeeshop Welcomes Bitcoin Payments
When walking into Russia’s largest bank, one would not expect to see such public support for Bitcoin right away. Most financial institutions around the world show a keen interest in blockchain technology, yet steer away from Bitcoin. Sberbank is doing things a bit differently from the rest, to say the least.
Not too long ago, Moscow saw the first brick-and-mortar Bitcoin exchange open its doors. Now that Sberbank’s coffeeshop in Moscow accepts Bitcoin as well, it seems things are coming to change in Russia. While it remains to be seen how many clients will purchase their coffee with Bitcoin, having the option available is a nod of approval toward cryptocurrency.
It has to be said, Russia is a bit late to the party when it comes to Bitcoin. For the longest time, the legality of cryptocurrency has been a topic of significant debate. At one time, it appeared owners of Bitcoin businesses in Russia might face jail time. However, that proposal was shot down rather quickly.
At the same time, the Russian internet watchdog continues to take aggressive measures toward cryptocurrency-related websites. Several Bitcoin news sites were blocked in 2015 and 2016. In recent weeks, the watchdog also forced ISPs to restrict access to LocalBitcoins. This latter action has done little to reduce the success of this platform, though.
It is important to keep in mind this decision by Sberbank may not affect the government’s stance on Bitcoin any time soon. Although their overall impression of cryptocurrency has softened a bit as of late, there is no official word on what the future may hold. Since the Sberbank coffeeshop is an independent vendor, they are free to accept any payment method that is not illegal in Russia.
The Future of Bitcoin in Russia Remains Uncertain
That being said, the Sberbank upper brass seems to be open-minded when it comes to Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. Coffeeshop co-owner Timofei Kulikov told Bloomberg how he decided to accept Bitcoin ever since it became too expensive to mine it himself. Kulikov strongly feels it is easier to sell things for Bitcoin, especially when they are everyday items such as coffee or breakfast sandwiches.
Unfortunately, it is not yet possible for the coffeeshop co-owner to reimburse the business in Bitcoin. All Bitcoin payments are converted to rubles, although that situation may change in the future. It will heavily depend on how the Russian government decides to regulate cryptocurrency in the coming years.