The Russian establishment is again showing its heavy hand regarding cryptocurrencies. LocalBitcoins, a marketplace facilitating the in-person trade of bitcoin, has notified clients in Russia that Roskomnadzor (its national censor) has recently decided to block access to the website.
LocalBitcoins say that this decision was very unexpected and responded to the ban by issuing detailed instructions for users in Russian on how to install a VPN and find a provider in order to bypass all the online censorship in the country.
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Roskomnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications) is Russia’s national executive body responsible for overseeing the electronic media and the internet.
If you are not familiar with LocalBitcoins, it is a service where people from different countries can exchange their local currency to bitcoin. The site allows users to post the exchange rate and payment methods they want for buying or selling bitcoin. Anyone can reply and agree to meet to buy or sell bitcoin with cash, or trade directly with online banking. Funds are placed in LocalBitcoins’ web wallet from where the buyer can pay for purchases directly.
It should be noted the Russia isn’t the only jurisdiction in which LocalBitcoins have run into trouble with regulations. For example, in 2015 LocalBitcoins left New York over its BitLicense program and in 2014 it halted service in Germany after being contacted by BaFin (Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht), the country’s financial supervisory authority, also apparently on the matter of licensing.