Russia’s Central Bank is developing a national digital currency

Sberbank CEO Herman Gref has “agreed” on the testing a number of digital currency pilots toward the development of a national digital currency with the country’s central bank.

Sberbank is Russia’s major state-controlled bank. In unofficial reports from local news aggregators, the so-called “Russian Bitcoin” will use Sberbank as its base and will be “the only cryptocurrency freely available for sale and purchase” in the country.

“All other cryptocurrencies will only be available via exchanges or trading platforms,” the Telegram news channel DeСenter reports Friday.

The news comes amid the ongoing economic forum in St. Petersburg, where the central bank deputy Olga Skorobogatova announced work had “already begun” on developing the national cryptocurrency.

According to a report by TASS, Russia’s largest news agency, Skorobogatova sees national cryptocurrencies as the future and claimed that it’s merely a matter of time before countries around the world adopt national digital currencies.

She stated:

“Regulators of all countries agree that it’s time to develop national cryptocurrencies, this is the future. Every country will decide on specific time frames. After our pilot projects, we will understand what system we could sue in our case for our national currency.”

Skorobogatova had previously outlined plans to regulate Bitcoin and its like in 2018, on the basis that an outright ban was no longer feasible. On the topic of Blockchain, she told forum members that it “is without a doubt necessary to buy into” such “revolutionary technology,” yet understanding the associated risks was essential.

Fully-controlled integration would require “ seven to 10 years,” she added and continued:

“In the coming years we will be concentrating on digital letters of credit, custodian accounting and digital bank guarantees using the Blockchain.”

Gref had also been encouraging on Blockchain, estimating initial implementations by 2019. “Two to two-and-a-half years is the timeframe in which we could be talking about seeing Blockchain technology commercially operating,” he said in February.

While details of the digital currency pilots are currently scarce, it is notable that the Bank of Russia has already developed and tested an Ethereum-based interbank blockchain prototype in 2016. Titled ‘MasterChain’, the blockchain prototype saw Russia’s largest banks participate in the financial messaging pilot, drawing speculation of a SWIFT-like financial messaging platform operated by the central bank.

Skorobogatova has notably spearheaded the effort to establish a blockchain working group backed by the central bank in February 2016, to research and explore applications of the decentralized technology, ultimately leading to ‘MasterChain’.

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