The CEO of Russia's largest bank, the state-owned Sberbank, has said that cryptocurrencies are now a feature of the modern world, like it or not.
According to a report by RT, Herman Gref made the statement before a gathering of Russian entrepreneurs.
"Virtual currencies are a natural outcome of blockchain technology," he told those assembled. "We may ban them, we may welcome them. It is trendy to urge people not to play with them. But they are a fact of our life." He continued: "Protectionism is just the first reaction of the state. However, both the institution of private money and the states, which will dare to change the way currency is issued, will eventually find a place for cryptocurrencies in the economy." People have begun to accept digital currencies as a part of their world, he argued. He ultimately expressed hope that cryptocurrency would not be banned in Russia, and spoke optimistically about the opportunity that blockchain technology represents for businesses.
Gref's words came after several Russian officials had signaled their hesitance to embrace cryptocurrency. On November 20, communications and mass media minister Nikolai Nikiforov said that the country would never recognize bitcoin as a "legal entity." The previous month, he'd announced President Vladimir Putin's decision to mint a state-backed cryptocurrency, explaining that the move should not be understood as an indication that the government is warming up to other cryptocurrencies.
In early October, finance minister Anton Siluanov stated that his government would work to educate Russians about cryptocurrencies, particularly about the hazards associated with using them as an investment vehicle. On September 8, he announced a plan to regulate cryptocurrencies like securities.
In September 2016, Russian state media organ Tass reported that Gref had spoken at the Moscow Financial Forum, where, according to a translation, he remarked that "it is critically important to determine the role and place of the state, even better to stimulate and not to prohibit at the first stage the development of … blockchain technology," lest cumbersome regulations or an outright ban cause Russian firms to fall behind their foreign counterparts.