Russia has had a tumultuous relationship with cryptocurrency in the past, but on Friday, the Russian government took what could be a big step towards defining what cryptocurrency is, and how it will be used.
Surprisingly, it was an October 2017 bankruptcy court case involving a very small amount of bitcoin that prompted the Russian Ministry of Justice to come up with a concrete definition of what a cryptocurrency is, and how it should be treated in legal cases. The defendant in this case did not include his bitcoin in the bankruptcy because, under Russian law at that time, cryptocurrency was not considered property. In February of 2017, Russia's Ninth Arbitration Court of Appeal agreed with the defendant, stating:
"… because of the lack of legislative regulation of cryptocurrency, it is impossible to unambiguously determine which category digital currencies belong – 'assets', 'information' or 'money surrogates.' "
However, on Friday, May 18, that ruling was overturned when Russia's Justice Minister, Alexander Konovalov, stated, "Cryptocurrency can be regarded not as electronic money, but as 'other property.'" He came to this conclusion by noting that because it is a crime to steal cryptocurrency, it must be viewed as property – because if it was not viewed as such, theft of cryptocurrency would not be a crime.
The road leading to this definition has been long and winding, and given its twists and turns throughout various entities within the Russian government, the story may not be over yet.
To wit: In March of this year, ETHNews reported that two different bills concerning the roles of cryptocurrency and initial coin offerings in the Russian stock market had been sent to the lower house of Russia's legislature. Then, in April, the head of the Committee on the Financial Market in Russia's lower legislative chamber announced the possible introduction of the cryptoruble, which could be a state-issued cryptocurrency, and it was even reported that Russia's executive branch had voiced its support for a bill that would regulate initial coin offerings, pending minor changes.
Perhaps the lack of a concrete definition of cryptocurrency is one of the reasons why no decisions have been made regarding these bills, but now that one has been provided, Russian crypto-legislation may … possibly … move just a little faster.
Translations by Google.