- Crypto exchange Binance's website has been officially unblocked in Russia.
- A regional court stated last September that Binance was “illegally distributing information about Bitcoin.”
- Such cases are usually caused by the lack of a clear definition of cryptocurrencies in Russia's legislation, experts noted.
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The district court of Russia’s Arkhangelsk region has lifted the ban on crypto exchange Binance’s website in the country, local news outlet Kommersant reported today.
The original ruling was made by the Mirninsk court of the same region in September 2020 at the request of a local prosecutor. At the time, they claimed that the distribution of information about Bitcoin—which was traded on Binance—was prohibited in the country. This meant that the exchange was officially blocked.
After being confronted with Binance’s counter-filing, the prosecutor’s office just withdrew its case without any further explanation.
“Essentially, there was no consideration of the case. The exchange restored the possibility of filing a complaint against the court’s decision, after which the prosecutor's office dropped its claim,” explained Alexander Zhuravlev, managing partner of law firm EDR.
According to Gleb Kostarev, head of Binance Russia, the exchange learned about the proceedings last year only when Roskomnadzor, the country’s telecom watchdog, notified it that the platform’s website had been added to the list of domain names that allegedly contain prohibited information. Namely, the court order stated that Binance was “illegally distributing information about Bitcoin.”
Mikhail Bautin, partner at law firm Digital Rights Center that represented Binance in court, added that the absence of any notifications from the court was a “gross processual violation.” Furthermore, the lawyers had to first reinstate an appeal deadline—already missed at that point—before actually filing a complaint.
However, despite Binance’s website being officially blocked for over three months—at least on paper—many users reported that they have never encountered any issues accessing the platform.
Setting a precedent
Speaking to Decrypt, lawyer and director of crypto exchange Alfacash Nikita Soshnikov noted such cases are common in Russia since courts and other agencies don’t have any precise definitions of crypto.
“I really hope that this order will eventually become a precedent and will put a long-awaited end to the practice of illegal blocking of crypto-related websites,” Soshnikov told Decrypt.
According to him, all similar cases and claims made by various district prosecutors were based on the lack of a precise definition of cryptocurrency in the legislation as well as misinterpretation of existing laws on information and the absence of any notifications prior to court orders coming into force.
“The positive outcome of the Bestchange [a Russian crypto exchange that was similarly blocked in the past] and Binance blocking cases, of course, should give a positive impetus and protect businesses from similar claims from law enforcement agencies,” Soshnikov summarized.
As Decrypt reported, Roskomnadzor also blocked access to the Russian version of LocalBitcoins in October. The agency is also known for the war it waged against Telegram for over two years—before it ultimately gave up.