Faced with stiffening sanctions from Western countries over its invasion of Ukraine, Russia is considering accepting bitcoin as payment for its oil and gas exports.
In a videotaped news conference held on Thursday, the chair of Russia’s Duma Committee on Energy said in translated remarks that when it comes to “friendly” countries such as China or Turkey, Russia is willing to be more flexible with payment options.
Chair Pavel Zavalny said that the national fiat currency of the buyer — as well as bitcoin — was being considered as an alternative way to pay for Russia’s energy exports.
“We have been proposing to China for a long time to switch to settlements in national currencies for rubles and yuan,” Zavalny said in translated comments. “With Turkey, it will be lira and rubles.” He didn’t stop with traditional currencies. “You can also trade bitcoins,” he said.
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Bitcoin is up close to 4% over the last 24 hours to about $44,000. The price of the cryptocurrency spiked around the time that news reports of Zavalny’s remarks first crossed.
The energy chair also doubled down on President Vladimir Putin’s promise on Wednesday to require “unfriendly” countries to pay for gas in Russian rubles. Putin’s announcement sent European gas prices soaring over worries the move might aggravate an energy market already under pressure.
“If they want to buy, let them pay either in hard currency, and this is gold for us, or pay as it is convenient for us, this is the national currency,” Zavalny said, in comments that echoed the president’s warning from the day before.
Though the U.S. has banned imports of Russian oil as part of its response to Moscow’s war on Ukraine, sources have told CNBC it’s unlikely that the European Union will follow suit, given its heavy dependence on Russian energy, in part to heat homes during the winter months.
“Russia is clearly looking to diversify into other currencies,” said Nic Carter, co-founder of Coin Metrics. He told CNBC that Russia had been preparing for that kind of transition since 2014 when it started to divest all U.S. Treasurys.