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Crypto exchange Binance blocks accounts of Russians linked to Kremlin officials

Binance reportedly blocked the crypto accounts of Elizaveta Peskova, the daughter of President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov as well as Polina Kovaleva, the stepdaughter of foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

Kremlin, Moscow / Image by: Wikimedea Commons

Mon, 02 May 2022, 10:20 am UTC

Crypto exchange Binance has adopted measures to comply with the recent sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. The company has shut down several accounts linked to the relatives of senior Kremlin officials to prevent the Russian government from evading the impact of the sanctions through the use of crypto.

Among those affected by Binance’s measures include Elizaveta Peskova, the daughter of President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov as well as Polina Kovaleva, the stepdaughter of foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, according to Cointelegraph.

Binance also blocked the account of Kirill Malofeyev. His father, Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev, was previously accused by the U.S. of violating sanctions.

Peskova expressed her dismay over the Western sanctions calling them unfair and unfounded. “I was really surprised because it’s weird introducing sanctions on someone who is 24 years old and has nothing to do with the situation,” she said.

According to Binance’s newly appointed global head of sanctions, Chagri Poyraz, the crypto exchange blocked Peskova’s account on March 3 when she tried to use it through a third-party brokerage. Peskova was included in the U.S. Treasury Department sanctions on March 11 targetting “Kremlin elites, leaders, oligarchs and family for enabling Putin’s war against Ukraine.”

“What’s different is that our compliance screen operations are ‘proactive,’ aiming to detect and deter financial crime risk before any regulatory or legal action towards these individuals or entities,” Poyraz said. He promised that the crypto exchange will continue monitoring its platform for people who might be linked to sanctioned individuals.

Earlier, Binance was hesitant to place restrictions on crypto accounts held by Russian users. “We are not going to unilaterally freeze millions of innocent users’ accounts,” a Binance spokesperson said in February 2022. “Crypto is meant to provide greater financial freedom for people across the globe. To unilaterally decide to ban people’s access to their crypto would fly in the face of the reason why crypto exists.”

However, decided to place restrictions on Russian users last month. “Following the EU’s fifth package of restrictive measures against Russia, Binance is required to limit services for Russian nationals or natural persons residing in Russia, or legal entities established in Russia, that have crypto assets exceeding the value of 10,000 EUR,” the crypto exchange said in a blog post on April 21, 2022.

“Accounts that classify under this restriction will be put into withdrawal-only mode,” Binance added. “No deposits or trading will be permitted on these accounts. The limit also covers all spot, futures, custody wallets, and staked and earned deposits.”

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