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Russia plans to have a “digital” ruble capable of making international payments by next year

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With Western sanctions barring Russia from much of the global financial system, Moscow is looking for alternative ways to make key payments both at home and abroad.

The governor of the country’s central bank, Elvira Nabiullina, said that the bank intends to make real transactions in “digital” rubles possible next year and that the digital currency could be used in some international transactions.

“The digital ruble is one of the priority projects. We created a prototype pretty quickly … now we are doing tests with banks and next year we will gradually have pilot transactions “, said Nabiullina to the lower house of the Russian Parliament.

Russia, like many other countries around the world, has developed digital money over the past two years to modernize its financial system, speed up payments, and get rid of the threat that cryptocurrencies like bitcoin will gain influence.

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Some central bank experts have also suggested that new technologies mean that countries could deal more directly with each other, making them less dependent on Western-dominated payment channels, such as the SWIFT system.

The Bahamas was the first state to launch a national digital currency in 2020, while China is the most advanced of the major economies, which conducted a mass test of a digital yuan at this year’s Beijing Winter Olympics.

Nabiullina also said that Russia intends to expand the number of countries that accept central bank MIR bank cards, an alternative to Visa and MasterCard, which have joined other Western companies and suspended operations in Russia.

China’s MIR and UnionPay are among the few options left for Russians to make payments abroad, as Russian banks have been isolated from the global financial system in response to what Moscow calls the “special military operation” in Ukraine.

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Western efforts to close possible routes to circumvent sanctions continued on Thursday. The world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange platform, Binance, has said it is deactivating the accounts of Russian citizens and companies based there with assets equivalent to more than 10,000 euros ($ 10,900). Those affected will still be able to withdraw their money, but will now be barred from making new deposits or trading, a measure in line with European Union sanctions, Binance said.

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