Bank of Russia forms first digital ruble testing group

Twelve Russian banks including Sberbank, VTB and Tinkoff Bank will help the Bank of Russia test the digital ruble in January 2022.

The central bank of Russia is setting up a group of banking institutions to test its central bank digital currency (CBDC) next year.

On Tuesday, the Bank of Russia officially announced the establishment of the first pilot group for testing the digital ruble, bringing together 12 Russian banks.

The pilot members include Russia’s largest banks like state-backed Sberbank and VTB, as well as major private banks like Tinkoff Bank. Other participants include commercial bank Alfa Bank, Gazprombank, Promsvyazbank, Rosbank, Ak Bars Bank, Dom.RF, SKB-Bank, TKB and Soyuz bank.

The bank reaffirmed Russia’s plans to complete a prototype digital ruble platform by the end of 2021 and roll out testing in January 2022. The first stage of testing will involve issuing the digital ruble and several other operations. The Bank of Russia then plans to extend the number of participants and range of pilot activities. 

Related: Russian central bank ‘short-sighted’ regarding crypto, lawmaker says

Bank of Russia’s first deputy governor, Olga Skorobogatova, said that the digital ruble will increase the availability of payments while reducing costs. 

The Bank of Russia officially announced its CBDC plans, issuing a consultation paper on the development of a digital ruble in October 2020. 

The central bank’s prioritization of the digital ruble over private cryptocurrencies has drawn the ire of some high-profile figures, including prominent oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who recently argued that the bank should provide a “real financial instrument enabling independence in foreign trade settlements.”

The CEO of Tinkoff said that the central bank’s policies were preventing Tinkoff from offering crypto trading services.

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