March 2, 2022: -Veteran investor Mark Mobius said the latest rally in bitcoin can be attributed to Russians buying into the cryptocurrency.
“I would not be a buyer, but if I were a Russian, I would be a buyer,” Mobius told CNBC on Tuesday.
“I would say that’s the reason behind bitcoin has shown strength now because the Russians have a way of getting money out, getting their wealth out,” said Mobius, the founding partner of Mobius Capital Partners.
On Monday, Bitcoin prices surged 10% as sanctions were imposed on Russian institutions, which include banks, in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Since the invasion started on Thursday, transactions on centralized bitcoin exchanges in the Russian ruble and the Ukrainian hryvnia increased to their highest levels in months, according to crypto data company Kaiko.
Bitcoin was trading nearly $43,327 in the early hours of Tuesday morning Eastern Time.
The U.S. has responded to Moscow’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine with a few rounds of sanctions on Russian banks, its central bank, its sovereign debt, Vladimir Putin, and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Over the weekend, the U.S., European allies, and Canada agreed to cut off vital Russian banks from the interbank messaging system, SWIFT, connecting over 11,000 banks and financial institutions in over 200 countries and territories.
The White House is pursuing the personal wealth of Russian billionaires, recently announcing the creation of a task force that will target their lucrative assets, which includes yachts and mansions.
If not for bitcoin, Mobius said, the Russians would be “really in trouble with all the closures of the different avenues for them to transfer money out.”
Ari Redbord of blockchain intelligence company TRM Labs told CNBC on Tuesday that Russia will turn to cryptocurrencies in an attempt to evade sanctions.
Although, crypto can’t be used “on the scale that would come anywhere near for solving the sanctions problem,” said Redbord, the head of legal and government affairs at the firm.
“There’s just not the liquidity there to make a dent in terms of what Russia is facing right now,” he said.
Redbord said most of the liquidity is at large crypto exchanges with “robust compliance controls” to monitor transactions that would file suspicious activity reports.
“Gold is a place to be, as I’ve mentioned for a long, long time; it’s essential to have some physical gold,” he said.