The move continues Russia's history of mixed signals on crypto.
Russia has blocked access to OKX—the world’s third-largest crypto exchange by volume—at the request of the Prosecutor General’s Office on Tuesday.
A search for the exchange’s domain under records from Roskomnadzor, Russia’s internet censorship agency, shows the site was blocked under article 15.3 of Russia’s law on Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection.
The article protects against the spread of fake information, threats to financial organizations, calls for extremist activity, among other things. However, no specific reason has been given for the website ban at this time. OKX did not immediately respond to Decrypt's request for comment.
The local NGO Roskomsvoboda has also listed Okx.com among its registry of blocked addresses. The organization, dedicated to monitoring online censorship, uses a name similar to Russia’s censorship agency, but replaces the latter half with “svoboda” (which means “freedom” in Russian) as opposed to “nadzor” (which translates to “oversight”).
OKX isn’t the first exchange to be targeted by Russia: Binance’s website was also blocked by a local court in June 2020, as initially reported by Binance’s regional head of Asia, Gleb Kostarev, in a Facebook post. Back then, Binance claimed it had not received any complaint from the government, nor had it been informed of the blacklisting until three months after its implementation.
“Issuance and usage of bitcoins are fully decentralized, and there is no way to regulate it by the government, which contradicts the current Russian law,” the court argued at the time. Nevertheless, Binance managed to have the ruling overturned by January 2021.
Since then, Russia agencies have worked fast to sort out crypto’s place within its current regulatory framework. The Bank of Russia and the Ministry of Finance were at odds for some time about whether or not crypto should be banned entirely from the country.
In recent months, they’ve managed to find compromise. On one hand, the State Duma and President Vladimir Putin passed a law banning cryptocurrencies as a means of payment in July. On the other, the nation’s government has expressed openness to using crypto for international trade—especially as a tool to bypass Western sanctions.
In compliance with EU sanctions, Binance was forced to restrict services to Russian nationals in April.