The Russian Parliament’s lower house, Duma just signed a law that will enable the Russian government to create a grand internet firewall just like, China’s Iron Curtain to censor all the incoming and outgoing information over the internet. The US-based media group, Vice reported in March that Putin is pushing a law in Russian parliament to censor internet data.
Independent news organizations outside of Russia label it as a power grab move by the Russian premier Vladimir Putin, the Russian government says that these measures are necessary for the protection of Russian identity from outside influence and to curb extremism brewing in the region
Russian Government has labeled the law as a necessary action because the current system of censorship is not effective. Moreover, the lawmakers are worried about the accusations of hacking by the Western states could lead to a retaliatory cyber attack.
The cryptocurrency policy is not entirely clear yet, but it is evident that the law would also hit the crypto sector. The government according to the regulations proposed earlier that they would require every crypto trader to have a government certificate and an economics degree. The central bank would also limit the number of cryptocurrencies an investor can purchase. Moreover, no trader would be allowed to trade cryptocurrencies without a qualification certificate.
The move seems to be inspired by China’s Iron Curtain Firewall, a name given to a combination of technologies and legislative actions by the Chinese government to restrict the cross-border internet traffic. Firewall restricts the use of internet for users in China, by blocking foreign websites and censoring all information available to Chinese users. The move has seen a sharp increase in China’s domestic internet market with companies like Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu the significant players in the Chinese market. Activists and leaders all around the world say that the firewall reflects China’s paranoia over the potential of the internet in bringing change.
According to the Russian media house, RBC; telecom operators in Russia have already been conducting exercises to look for potential threats. As a result of the law, the Russian telecom operators would be required to cut off Russian internet from the rest of the world and reroute all the traffic to servers based in Russia. To create a “sovereign internet,” the Kremlin would be allowed to monitor all the activities on the Russian internet.
However, the move was not received well by the Russian public, more than fifteen thousand Russian citizens took to the Moscow streets to protest against the law earlier in March. The Public opinion seems to be divided over the matter; some see it as a necessary move for the protection of national interests while others see it as a power grab by Putin. A demonstrator at the Moscow procession 28 years old Dmitry said:
If we do nothing it will get worse. The authorities will keep following their way, and the point of no return will be passed.
Will it Affect Cryptocurrencies?
The Russian government’s rationale for the legislation is not clear, but experts have suggested that in the government’s view, cryptocurrencies surpass the government’s authority opening new ways for criminals and money launderers. The move seems to be inspired by the Chinese government that banned the use of cryptocurrency altogether in an effort to curb corruption and malpractices. The Russian finance ministry in a statement last year also proposed a draft law for the use of cryptocurrencies (or surrogate for payments as they called it) as illegal. The ministry, considers issuance of money as a criminal offense, only the government is allowed to issue money, and the Ruble is the only currency in Russia. The finance ministry issued a statement:
This is necessary to protect Ruble as the single legal means of payment in Russia
Regulations have not been passed by the government yet, but past restrictions on the internet will still affect cryptocurrencies. Kremlin would be able to access all the transnational traffic over Russian internet, taking away the privacy factor of crypto transactions. This would make the use of cryptocurrencies not just difficult but also dangerous.
The law was passed recently but it still needs to be passed by the Federation Council (Upper house) and ratified by the president and it is expected that the law will be enforced within weeks. The Federation Council is also controlled by United Russia, the majority party in the Russian Duma, thus it is predicted that the law will not see much resistance in the Federation Council as well. There are a few steps before it is signed into law however, after the law is finalized, government is permitted to flip the “security switch” whenever they want.