The world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, Binance, has denied that it shared user data — including names and addresses of clients — with Russian intelligence agencies, after Reuters uncovered startling details on the company’s data-sharing with Moscow.
In particular, Reuters revealed that the Russian government was looking to trace millions of Bitcoin donations collected by jailed Russian political dissident Alexei Navalny, who had gotten in the crosshairs of the Kremlin for organizing anti-government protests against President Vladimir Putin.
Although in 2019, Binance’s chief Changpeng Zhao told Russian citizens that Binance aimed to “protect users” and ensure “freedom of money,” Gleb Kostarev, a Binance top official overseeing Russia, said he lacked “much of a choice” in handing over the data to the Russian authorities, according to Reuters.
Binance told Reuters that the Russian government never contacted the company for data on Navalny. Although any compliance request would involve require fielding “appropriate requests from regulators and law enforcement agencies,” Binance nevertheless denies any data sharing on Navalny.
Despite vociferous opposition to crypto companies allowing Russia to profit off crypto during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Binance remains one of the few crypto exchanges that still operates in the country, albeit in a limited capacity. Last week, Binance said that it was restricting access to Russian users to stay in line with European sanctions.
In the past, Binance has been vocal about not wanting to “freeze millions of innocent users’ accounts.”
Despite this, Reuters reports that transactions on Binance in Russia have actually gone up during the Ukraine war, as citizens increasingly rely on crypto to insulate themselves from Western sanctions. According to Kostarev, Binance was not “making a fuss” to ensure that the exchange could continue without interruption in the country.
Amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, however, Binance clarified that “active engagement with the Russian government has now stopped due to the conflict.”