According to ECB President Christine Lagarde, cryptocurrency constitutes a "threat" to global security, but this is in stark contrast to real-world data and expert opinion.
Chainalysis reports that the daily ruble-denominated crypto trading volume was just $7.4 million as of March 18, down more than 50% from recent figures and a peak of $70 million on March 7.
This amount represents a tiny slither of the total global crypto market volume, with Bitcoin’s total daily volume generally fluctuating between $20 billion and $40 billion.
In a presentation at the Bank for International Settlements Innovation Summit on Tuesday, the crypto skeptic Lagarde said that European financial authorities said that, “volumes of rubles into stable, into cryptos, at the moment [is at] the highest level that we have seen since maybe 2021.”
Ms. Lagarde avoided blaming the Russian government, instead emphasizing that it is primarily Russian individuals and businesses turning to cryptocurrencies. Although cryptocurrencies "are definitely being used as a way to circumvent sanctions," she added.
"So is it [crypto] a threat? Yes. Has it been a threat in the past? Yes, because when you look at a lot of the dubious transactions that are taking place, a lot of the criminal activities payments that are taking place, very often you find some crypto assets.”
Lagarde's comments seem contradictory to data provided by Chainalysis and Kaiko, as well as expert opinion. The Blockchain Association's Jake Chervinsky argues that crypto assets are unlikely to be used by Russia to circumvent sanctions.
The crypto analysis company Kaiko provided data showing ruble to Tether (USDT) volume was down 86% from its peak of $38 million on March 7 to less than $5 million on March 22. During the months leading up to the war and afterward, volumes spiked, but are now back at levels below those seen throughout much of early February. That’s before sanctions were imposed.
Business in the United States and other western nations is restricted from doing business with Russian banks and the national wealth fund due to its isolation from the SWIFT international payment system.