Coinbase, Binance resist calls to kick Russians off crypto platforms

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March 4 (Reuters) – Two of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges, Coinbase Global Inc COIN.O and Binance, rejected calls on Friday for a blanket ban on all Russian users to stop their platforms from being used as a way round Western sanctions.

By staying put in Russia despite the invasion of Ukraine, the two exchanges are diverging from mainstream finance in a way some anti-money laundering experts and European regulators say weakens Western attempts to isolate Moscow.

“We believe everyone deserves access to basic financial services unless the law says otherwise,” Coinbase Chief Executive Officer Brian Armstrong said in a series of tweets on Friday.

The exchange, however, would enforce such a blanket ban if the U.S. government decides to impose one, Armstrong added.

“We are not going to unilaterally freeze millions of innocent users’ accounts,” a spokesperson of Binance, the world’s biggest crypto exchange, said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

Both cryptocurrency exchanges have said they will comply with government sanctions. 

Major crypto exchanges have been urged to ban their services in Russia to prevent sanctioned entities from parking their assets using cryptocurrencies. The exchanges, however, insist they are well equipped to avoid abuse of their platforms.

The price of bitcoin has jumped following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as people in those countries look to store and move money in anonymous and decentralized crypto.

Bitcoin enjoys conflict currency credentials and remains unaffected by a hit to its much-touted potential as a safe-haven asset in recent months because of price moves that often mimic the broader market.

Some global corporate giants have taken more aggressive measure to cut off ties with Moscow. Exxon Mobil said it would exit oil and gas operations in Russia, while Boeing Co BA.N has suspended parts, maintenance and technical support for Russian airlines. 

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