Groups supporting Russia’s war effort in Ukraine have been actively collecting cryptocurrency to fund paramilitary operations and evade sanctions, researchers say. These organizations are using Telegram to raise cash, then use it to purchase equipment or training.
Paramilitary groups use cryptocurrency for funding Russian operations in Ukraine
Pro-Russian groups have reportedly raised a serious amount of cryptocurrency for Russia’s military activities in Ukraine, circumventing U.S.-led sanctions. CNBC reported Monday that $400,000 had been raised by digital asset compliance and risk management company TRM Labs.
It was revealed in the study that these groups were using Telegram encrypted messaging to provide support options and funds to send to their supporters. The money could then be used later to buy supplies for Russian-affiliated militias, or to fund combat training at sites near the Ukrainian frontier.
One of these, Task Force Rusich, has been labeled by the U.S. Treasury as a “neo-Nazi paramilitary group that has participated in combat alongside Russia’s military in Ukraine.” The department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has placed it under sanctions. The group was looking to raise funds for radios and thermal imaging equipment via Telegram channels.
The Novorossiya Aid Coordinating Center was another group that TRM Labs identified. It raised approximately $21,000 in cryptocurrency (mainly Bitcoin) with the goal of purchasing drones. It was founded in 2014 as a support organization for Russian operations in Ukraine.
These findings are made amid increasing sanctions on Russia for its attack against Ukraine in February. The sanctions have greatly restricted Russia’s access to global financial systems. To circumvent these restrictions, the Russian government has begun to legalize cryptocurrency payments for international settlements.
Crypto Said Not to Have Liquidity in Large-Scale Russian Transactions
Experts have noted that while the crypto market may lack the liquidity Russia requires to move large sums, the space has sufficient liquidity to enable paramilitary groups make transfer for what they want. Ari Redbord is the head of legal affairs and government at TRM Labs.
They’re probably using non-compliant exchanges to off-ramp those funds… Of course, there’ll be more. Will it amount to billions? Extremely unlikely.
TRM Labs used public wallet addresses to pinpoint these groups and also cross-checked online activity and other websites. Redbord remarked, however, that it’s not possible to establish with certainty whether they were working with the Russian government.
“I think an interesting part of this story is that crypto is just a form of payment in these cases. It’s a way to move funds. And there’s an example of it being used for good and example of it being used for bad in this context,” the executive added. Crypto donations have also been used to finance humanitarian and defense efforts by the government of Ukraine.
Chainalysis, which is a blockchain analytics company, identified 54 proRussian organizations that received more than $2.2 million in various cryptocurrency. According to the company, although the majority of crypto funds were transferred to multiple organizations, others had also received significant amounts.
Is it possible for both sides to continue raising funds through cryptocurrency? Comment below with your opinions.
Images CreditsShutterstock. Pixabay. Wiki Commons
DisclaimerThis informational article serves only as a guide. It does not constitute an offer, solicitation, or recommendation of any company, products or services. Bitcoin.com doesn’t offer investment, tax or legal advice. The author and the company are not responsible for any loss or damage caused or alleged caused by the content or use of any goods, services, or information mentioned in the article.