Crypto exec likens Russia to North Korea, blocks users over sanctions

Crypto gaming startup Animoca Brands worries it could be cut off from the financial system if it doesn't block Russia-based users.

Crypto gaming startup Animoca Brands has been advised by its lawyers to block Russia-based users as sanctions imposed on Moscow ramp up.

As reported by Bloomberg, the Hong Kong-based company says it’s freezing all services to users in Russia and will cease selling company stock to Russian investors (shares trade privately, according to its chief exec).

“The legal advice we’ve been receiving is we now have to impose some restrictions,” co-founder Yat Siu told Bloomberg. 

“It’s a sanctioned country on par with North Korea. The moment we end up doing business in those areas, we might ourselves become financially excluded from the financial system.”

Animoca Brands says the move won’t have a huge effect as numbers of Russian users are low.

According to Siu, the ban will impact a number of its subsidiaries. These include mobile gaming portal Gamee and sports NFT platform Lympo.

Gamee last Monday (before the incursion) confirmed via Twitter that it’s cutting off all Russian services.

Two days later, Lympo said it would no longer onboard Russian athletes to its NFT minting scheme.

Major crypto exchanges aren’t blocking Russia-based users

Whether Animoca Brands is taking a moral stand or just keeping its legal, its stance is something of a rarity among crypto and blockchain businesses.

Last week, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov called on major crypto exchanges to freeze accounts belonging to citizens and politicians in Russia and Belarus.

“It’s crucial to freeze not only the addresses linked to Russian and Belarusian politicians, but also to sabotage ordinary users,” tweeted Federov.

Read more: [Kraken CEO: Exchange must ban US traders if it freezes Russian accounts]

However, Binance, Coinbase, and Kraken have stopped short of a blanket ban on Russian users.

The companies cited crypto’s ethos of financial freedom and a lack of legal requirements for sticking with its current policies, which already filter individuals sanctioned by world governments.

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