Western sanctions have forced beleaguered Russian journalists to turn to cryptocurrencies to keep their businesses afloat.
In the days following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, readers of the well-known independent Russian-language news site Meduza began to complain that payments were not going through.
Western sanctions on Russia now prevent payments company Stripe from serving Russian readers at the Latvia-based outlet, their main source of income. Now, the news outlet has come to rely on other sources of funding, including cryptocurrencies.
Western sanctions ‘destroy’ crowdfunding
“We can’t predict that Western government sanctions will come first and disrupt our crowdfunding,” said Ivan Kolpakov, the outlet’s editor-in-chief, which lost about a third of traffic after the restrictions.
While the site previously relied on donations from about 30,000 Russian readers, the restrictions forced it to raise funds from an international audience for the first time.
The site’s donation page asks for donations in USD, EUR, and cryptocurrencies, and includes instructions on how to buy Bitcoin and Ethereum on Binance.
A step-by-step guide on how to send untraceable payments via Monero is also available to contributors concerned with anonymity.
Meduza has only raised half of the funds needed for its development so far, according to Kolpakov, who declined to say how much the donations have brought in.
According to on-chain data, wallets listed on the Meduza website hold about $230,000 in BTC and ETH at current prices.
Cryptocurrency in Russia
While the Russian government has shut down or exiled independent journalism and threatened 15 years in prison for reporting official accounts of the war in Ukraine, it has also turned to cryptocurrencies in response to sanctions imposed by the West.
Last month, Russian news outlet Kommersant revealed that the Ministry of Finance has been working on draft legislation to legalize the use of cryptocurrencies in Russia.
The bill will reportedly seek to make cryptocurrencies a recognized unit of payment and investment asset. Meanwhile, Elvira Nabiullina, the governor of Russia’s central bank, told the lower house of the country’s parliament that it will be possible next year to launch a central bank digital currency capable of international settlements.
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