Bitcoin’s legality is still unclear in Russia, as the local government and authorities avoid to establish unified regulations and money transmission policies for bitcoin users, businesses and investors. However, a Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who has significant support from the people, is officially accepting bitcoin donations for his 2018 presidential campaign.
Over the past few years, Russian President Vladimir Putin has made several remarks regarding bitcoin usage, censorship and businesses. On national television and various domestic TV networks like Russia 24, he stated that bitcoin can be used as an accounting unit. As Bitcoin.com reported on July 15, Putin also stated that Russia is not opposed to bitcoin or other digital currencies.
Alexei Navalny, Russian Anti-Corruption Leader
Alexei Navalny is a Russian lawyer, financial activist and a strong advocate against corruption and current Russian President Vladimir Putin. Since 2009, Navalny has gained serious prominence and exposure from the Russian mainstream media by leading democratic promotions.
In the past, Nalvany continuously expressed concerns over the possibility of fair elections, stating that the presence of the United Russia party and Putin himself makes it difficult for any candidate in opposing parties to achieve success in presidential campaigns. He also noted that controversy surrounding electoral justice ultimately discouraged him and his team in leading an actual presidential campaign against United Russia.
However, on December 13, Navalny announced his official bid to run for Russian presidency in 2018. In a video released on his official social media channels, Nalvany stated that he firmly believes he can win the polls by publicizing controversial discussions and political regimes that most political leaders in Russia refuse to talk about.
“I am going to the polls, and I am going to fight to win. I am going to speak about things people refuse to talk about, but which it is high time were said,” he said.
Emphasis on the Importance of Bitcoin Donations
On his official campaign website, Nalvany and his team emphasized that it is not easy to achieve fair elections in Russia. To do so, the team needs adequate funds to finance regional headquarters and lawyers to ensure that justice is served during the elections.
The Nalvany campaign management team listed four major methods of donations or funding, including Yandex, Bank Card, Paypal and bitcoin.
“To achieve the participation of Alexei Navalny in the elections is not easy and to achieve fair elections is even more difficult. Your donations [will finance] the work of the regional headquarters and lawyers.
Donations are crucial for an opposition party that has substantially less support compared to Putin’s. More importantly, 46 million people, approximately 32% of the Russian population, are underbanked or don’t have access to banking services. Thus, for the working class seeking for anti-corruption and an advocate for democracy, decentralized currencies like bitcoin could be easier to obtain and facilitate.
“In the Russian Federation, uneven access to financial services and low levels of financial literacy have left approximately one-third (46 million) of the country’s people either unbanked or underbanked. Residents of remote regions are particularly undeserved as banks find it costly and unprofitable to set up and operate branches,” said researchers at the Alliance For Financial inclusion.