EDIT: The original source for this information is false. A message was placed on the Volgograd Prosecutor’s website by hackers, the website claims.
They spoke to “representatives of BTC-e” who “downplayed the situation”, in their words.
I’m inclined to agree with Coindesk to start off. BTC-e is unlikely to be as cavalier as they ought to be, and them dismissing the issue means essentially nothing. There’s a strong chance that they would dismiss it regardless of its truth.
However, I think this points to something more sinister than a simple BTC-e investigation. This seems like a strong signal that Russia is planning to ban, regulate, or restrict the use of cryptocurrency. I take this stance both as a result of my feelings on the general climate (which are imprecise), and in specific regard to statements like this one from last week. It seems to me that they are slowly building a case by linking virtual currency to terrorism, to money-laundering, to drug-trafficking. This will make it easier for them to regulate it more tightly. I don’t expect a full ban in the near future, but tight exchange controls could definitely develop in the next month. They are threatening to firewall BTC-e countrywide, which is a pretty big deal; would it be that surprising for them to extend that firewall to other exchanges?
I would be a very wary bull in this market if I were one. If Russia makes a big move on the topic, it will be important. We may even see a domino effect in China as a result. Imagine this scenario:
- Russia bans Bitcoin
- Markets panic, losing 20% value
- China uses the sudden crash along with the Jan. 31st change as an opportunity to shift policy–their primary goal has been preventing risky investment, and if they can find an opportunity to use that goal to justify banning it, they may do so.
And not at the disco.
That scenario isn’t implausible to me, but it’s far from certain. I consider regulatory crackdown from Russia likely.
Not everyone agrees with me. Here’s a very interesting post on Reddit from someone in Moscow. He portrays a MUCH different climate than what I have picked up, which indicates that populist sentiment is unsurpisingly pro-Bitcoin. It is difficult to say whether that will be enough to stop Russia should they decide Bitcoin goes against the government’s interests.