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Russia mulls allowing cryptocurrency for international payments, Interfax reports

Representations of the Ripple, Bitcoin, Etherum and Litecoin virtual currencies are seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration picture, February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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May 27 (Reuters) – Russia is considering allowing cryptocurrency to be used for international payments, Interfax news agency quoted a government official as saying on Friday.

“The idea of using digital currencies in transactions for international settlements is being actively discussed,” Ivan Chebeskov, head of the finance ministry’s financial policy department, was quoted as saying.

Russian officials are wrestling with how to regulate the country’s crypto market and use of digital currencies, with the finance ministry opposed to the central bank’s calls for a blanket ban. read more

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Discussions have been ongoing for months and though the government expects cryptocurrencies to be legalised as a means of payment sooner or later, no consensus has yet been reached. read more

The finance ministry is discussing adding the latest proposal on international payments to an updated version of a draft law, the Vedomosti newspaper reported on Friday, citing government officials.

Allowing crypto as a means of settlement for international trade would help counter the impact of Western sanctions, which has seen Russia’s access to traditional cross-border payment mechanisms “limited,” Chebeskov said.

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Reporting by Reuters

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Biden orders government to study digital dollar, other cryptocurrency risks

WASHINGTON, March 9 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday requiring the government to assess the risks and benefits of creating a central bank digital dollar, as well as other cryptocurrency issues, the White House said.

Bitcoin surged on the news as the administration’s holistic and deliberative approach calmed market fears about an immediate regulatory crackdown on cryptocurrencies. In midday trading, bitcoin rose 9.1% to $42,280, on track for its largest percentage gain since Feb. 28. read more

Biden’s order will require the Treasury Department, the Commerce Department and other key agencies to prepare reports on “the future of money” and the role cryptocurrencies will play.

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Wide-ranging oversight of the cryptocurrency market, which surged past $3 trillion in November, is essential to ensure U.S. national security, financial stability and U.S. competitiveness, and stave off the growing threat of cyber crime, administration officials said.

Analysts view the long-awaited executive order as a stark acknowledgement of the growing importance of cryptocurrencies and their potential consequences for the U.S. and global financial systems. read more

“The growth in cryptocurrencies has been explosive,” Daleep Singh, deputy national security adviser for economics, said in an interview with CNN.

Cryptocurrencies and digital assets can affect how people access banking, whether consumers are safe and protected from volatility, and the primacy of the U.S. dollar in the global economy, he said.

The executive order is part of an effort to promote responsible innovation but mitigates the risk to consumers, investors and businesses, Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, and Jake Sullivan, White House national security adviser, said in a statement.

“We are clear-eyed that ‘financial innovation’ of the past has too often not benefited working families, while exacerbating inequality and increasing systemic financial risk,” they said.

One key objective is to redress inefficiencies in the current U.S. payments system and boost financial inclusion, especially of poor Americans, about 5% of whom do not currently have bank accounts due to high fees, one official said.

Another key measure directs the government to assess the technological infrastructure needed for a potential U.S. Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) – an electronic version of dollar bills in your pocket.

But it could take years to develop and introduce a “digital dollar,” administration officials cautioned on Wednesday, noting that the Federal Reserve in January had referred the issue to Congress. read more

Administration officials said the United States was taking great care to decide whether – and how – tomove forward with developing a digital dollar, given the dollar’s role as the world’s primary reserve currency.

“We’ve got to be very, very deliberate about that analysis because the implications of our moving in this direction are profound for the country that issues the world’s primary reserve currency,” one of the officials said.

The order also encourages the Federal Reserve to continue research and development efforts.

Nine countries have launched central bank digital currencies, and 16 others – including China – have begun development of such digital assets, according to the Atlantic Council, leading some in Washington to worry that the dollar could lose some of its dominance to China.

The U.S. dollar remains underpinned by key fundamentals, including a commitment to transparency, the rule of law and the full independence of the Federal Reserve, the official said.

“The dollar’s role has been and will continue to be crucial to the stability of the international monetary system as a whole. Foreign central bank digital currencies and their introduction by themselves do not threaten this dominance,” the official said.

Asked whether China could develop a competitive advantage if it moved sooner, one administration official said U.S. officials would monitor developments with an eye to maintaining the centrality of the dollar in the global economy.

The order asks for over a dozen reports, including by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to assess issues raised by cryptocurrencies, including systemic risk and consumer protection.

One key objective is to redress inefficiencies in the current U.S. payments system and boost financial inclusion, especially of poor Americans, about 5% of whom do not currently have bank accounts due to high fees, an official said.

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Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Katanga Johnson; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Michelle Price, Simon Cameron-Moore and Mark Porter

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EXCLUSIVE North Korea grows nuclear, missiles programs, profits from cyberattacks -U.N. report

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 5 (Reuters) – North Korea continued to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programs during the past year and cyberattacks on cryptocurrency exchanges were an important revenue source for Pyongyang, according to an excerpt of a confidential United Nations report seen on Saturday by Reuters.

The annual report by independent sanctions monitors was submitted on Friday evening to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee.

“Although no nuclear tests or launches of ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) were reported, DPRK continued to develop its capability for production of nuclear fissile materials,” the experts wrote.

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North Korea is formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). It has long-been banned from conducting nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches by the U.N. Security Council.

“Maintenance and development of DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile infrastructure continued, and DPRK continued to seek material, technology and know-how for these programs overseas, including through cyber means and joint scientific research,” the report said.

Since 2006, North Korea has been subject to U.N. sanctions, which the Security Council has strengthened over the years in an effort to target funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The sanctions monitors noted that there had been a “marked acceleration” of missile testing by Pyongyang.

The United States and others said on Friday that North Korea had carried out nine ballistic missile launches in January, adding it was the largest number in a single month in the history of the country’s weapons of mass destruction and missile programs.

“DPRK demonstrated increased capabilities for rapid deployment, wide mobility (including at sea), and improved resilience of its missile forces,” the sanctions monitors said.

North Korea’s mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CYBERATTACKS, ILLICIT TRADE

The monitors said “cyberattacks, particularly on cryptocurrency assets, remain an important revenue source” for North Korea and that they had received information that North Korean hackers continued to target financial institutions, cryptocurrency firms and exchanges.

“According to a member state, DPRK cyberactors stole more than $50 million between 2020 and mid-2021 from at least three cryptocurrency exchanges in North America, Europe and Asia,” the report said.

The monitors also cited a report last month by cybersecurity firm Chainalysis that said North Korea launched at least seven attacks on cryptocurrency platforms that extracted nearly $400 million worth of digital assets last year.

In 2019, the U.N. sanctions monitors reported that North Korea had generated an estimated $2 billion for its weapons of mass destruction programs using widespread and increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks.

The latest report said North Korea’s strict blockade in response to the COVID-19 pandemic meant “illicit trade, including in luxury goods, has largely ceased.”

Over the years the U.N. Security Council has banned North Korean exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capped imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

“Although maritime exports from DPRK of coal increased in the second half of 2021, they were still at relatively low levels,” the monitors said.

“The quantity of illicit imports of refined petroleum increased sharply in the same period, but at a much lower level than in previous years,” the report said. “Direct delivery by non-DPRK tankers to DPRK has ceased, probably in response to COVID-19 measures: instead, only DPRK tankers delivered oil.”

North Korea’s humanitarian situation “continues to worsen,” the report said. The monitors said that was probably due to the COVID-19 blockade, but that a lack of information from North Korea meant it was difficult to determine how much U.N. sanctions were unintentionally harming civilians.

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Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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