The CEO of the US-based crypto exchange has faced a backlash after saying he would not freeze Russian accounts over the invasion of Ukraine – adding that he would freeze American accounts over US aggression against others countries would rather block.
“If we were to voluntarily freeze financial accounts of residents of countries that unjustly attack and provoke violence around the world, step 1 would be to freeze all US accounts,” Kraken CEO Jesse Powell wrote on Twitter.
“From a practical point of view, that’s not a really viable business option for us.”
Powell responded to calls from senior Ukrainian officials to block Russian access to crypto exchanges.
He said he could not impose such a ban “without a legal rule” and that “Russians should be aware that such a rule could be imminent.”
Powell’s tweets sparked protests from Twitter users, who vowed to unlink their accounts.
“We love octopuses but this is why we’re withdrawing our fortune from your exchange!” tweeted one Twitter user.
Another Twitter user commented on Kraken, “They clearly support the Russian government and oligarchs using crypto to launder money and other illegal practices.”
“Congratulations, Kraken will surely lose thousands of customers,” said another commenter.
But others agreed with Powell’s statement that most crypto owners are against the war.
One Twitter user wrote: “Being a Russian citizen and having a Kraken account does not correlate with supporting Putin. I would actually guess that hackers waging the cyber war against him are more related to that.”
Powell tweeted that he would “suspect that the vast majority of crypto owners on Kraken are opposed to the war” and that Bitcoin is “the embodiment of libertarian values that strongly advocate individualism and human rights.”
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He cited the recent trucker protest in Canada that relied on crypto donations after the government froze bank accounts linked to participants.
Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao joined Powell in defying calls to block Russians from accessing their digital assets amid their government’s invasion of Ukraine.
Zhao told Bloomberg that while Binance would follow sanctions laws “very strictly,” it would be “unethical” to expand the list of people banned from its platform.
“Anyone who is on the sanctions list cannot use our platform, whoever is not on the sanctions list can,” he said.
According to Zhao, Binance conducts full reviews of users to ensure those on the sanctions list cannot use the platform.
“It is not our decision to freeze user accounts,” he told Bloomberg.
“Facebook hasn’t banned Russian users. Google hasn’t locked down Russia. The US didn’t do that.”
He added: “Also from an ethical point of view, many Russians do not support the war, so we should separate the politicians from the ordinary people.”
The US and European Union last week imposed sanctions on Russian financial institutions, banning several banks from the SWIFT system.
Targeting Russia’s financial sector could prompt many in the country to park their wealth in cryptocurrency, which is largely unregulated.
Earlier this week, bitcoin price is up almost 17%, fueled by greater demand from wealth holders in both Russia and Ukraine.
https://nypost.com/2022/03/03/ceo-of-us-crypto-company-kraken-wont-freeze-russian-accounts/ The CEO of the US crypto company Kraken will not freeze Russian accounts