Back then in April 2021, the Financial Intelligence Unit from Russia had a meeting with Binance regional head in Moscow. The Russian wanted Binance to hand over their client data (name and address included) so they could fight crime. This information was found in text messages sent by the company official to business associate.
That agency, Rosfin or Rosfinmonitoring, wanted to track millions of dollars (in Bitcoin) collected by Alexei Navalny. He was the opposition leader of Russia and suspected to be familiar with the matter. Rosfin added Navalny to their terrorist organization list that month. According to Navalny, the donations have been used to finance the efforts exposing corruption issues within the government of President Vladimir Putin.
Gleb Kostarev, the Head of Binance Russia and Europe agreed to Rosfin request concerning data share. He informed the business associate that he didn’t have much choice. Now, Kostarev didn’t have any comment for this matter. While according to Binance, they had never ever been contacted by (Russian) authorities concerning Navalny. The company mentioned that they had been seeking for compliance in Russia actively before the war. For that matter, they would have been required to respond properly to requests from law enforcement and regulators agencies.
What Binance didn’t tell the world is the fact that the meeting was actually their efforts (behind the scene, naturally) to make ties with the Russian government agencies. Binance wanted to grow and expand its business in Russia, so they needed the right support. The efforts were revealed after interviews (with more than 10 people knowing Binance maneuvers in Russia) had been done, and they included crypto industry executives, ex-business partners, and also former employees. There were also text message reviews that Kostarev had sent to those outside Binance.
Despite Russia’s invasion to Ukraine on 24th of February, Binance has kept on operating regardless the requests (from Kyiv government and other exchanges) to ban users from Russia. Other major FinTech and payment companies, like American Express and PayPal, have stopped services in Russia since the invasion. EXMO.com, one of Binance main competitors in Russian, stated that they have not served Belarusian and Russian clients anymore. They were selling their Russia businesses.
Binance legal representatives said that they have stopped active interaction and engagement with the (Russian) government because of the conflict. And in Thursday 21st of April, Binance confirmed that they have been limiting services for major of their Russian clients due to the latest EU sanctions.
Russian trading volumes have surged quite drastically since the beginning of the invasion. According to a top research firm, Russians have been turning to crypto so they can protect their assets from rouble devaluation and Western sanctions. Kostarev said that Binance has a priority, which is to make sure that the market must stay open, so the exchange won’t make a fuss. He refused to explain further. Although Binance stated that they have been applying sanctions quite aggressively (as those sanctions are imposed by the Western government), they won’t freeze out millions of innocent accounts unilaterally.