Digital asset exchange Binance has blocked accounts tied to relatives of government officials in Moscow. Amid mounting international penalties over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the trading platform said it will continue to check for users associated with sanctioned individuals.
Binance, the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchange, has blocked several accounts linked to relatives of some high-ranking members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration, Bloomberg reported. The move comes as sanctions continue to rain on Russia in response to its military assault on neighboring Ukraine.
Among the users who have been denied access in the past two months since the Russian troops crossed the Ukrainian border are the stepdaughter of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Polina Kovaleva, and Elizaveta Peskova, the daughter of the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Binance also banned Kirill Malofeev, the son of Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev. The latter has been accused by Washington of funding pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. Malofeev, who is on the U.S. and EU sanctions lists and wanted by the Kyiv authorities for his involvement in the war in the Donbas region, is a Putin supporter.
The news of the shuttered accounts comes after earlier in April, Binance limited services to Russian users to comply with the latest round of sanctions approved by the European Union. The restrictions apply to Russian nationals, residents and legal entities that have crypto assets exceeding €10,000 ($10,800) in value on the platform.
In early March, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao said that the exchange was freezing the accounts of sanctioned Russian individuals but insisted that blocking all Russians would be “unethical.” At the same time, the executive dismissed concerns that cryptocurrencies could help Moscow circumvent western sanctions.
Binance revealed it blocked Peskova on March 3, when she attempted to use the exchange through a third-party brokerage. She was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department the following week, the report details.
Kovaleva’s account was shuttered on March 24, the day she was sanctioned by the U.K. Malofeev was designated by the U.S. Treasury on April 20 and had his Binance accounts blocked this week, the company added.
The crypto exchange will continue its efforts to identify other people connected to sanctioned individuals, the platform’s global head of sanctions assured. “What’s different is that our compliance screen operations are ‘proactive,’ aiming to detect and deter financial crime risk before any regulatory or legal action towards these individuals or entities,” Chagri Poyraz has been quoted as stating.
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