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Bitcoin donations to jailed Kremlin critic Navalny cause surge

Bitcoin has been rallying hard, jumping over 300%in 2020 and breezing past record highs to reach above $47,000 on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

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Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny's movement has received bitcoin donations worth nearly $300,000 this year, outstripping the total amount it was given in the cryptocurrency in 2020 at the prices at the time,according to a data analysis.

Navalny made headlines in January after he returned to Russia for the first time since being poisoned in Siberia last summer. He was arrested and in February handed a nearly three-year jail term in a case he says was politically-motivated.

His anti-Kremlin movement has accepted donations in bitcoin since 2016 via its network of regional political headquarters,an attempt to make it harder for Russia's intelligence services to track and potentially disrupt its funding.

Leonid Volkov, who is in charge of all of Navalny's campaign HQs across Russia, told Reuters that overall donations had doubled in January month-on-month, though did not break the donations down by payment method or disclose how much had been received.

But the campaign's bitcoin wallet, viewed by Reuters, showed it received 6.242 bitcoins from Jan. 1 to Feb. 11. At current rates, that's nearly $300,000.

That exceeds the value of all the bitcoin donations it received for 2020, according to calculations by cryptocurrency website Protos, with each donation valued in terms of bitcoin prices at the time it was made.

Bitcoin has been rallying hard, jumping over 300%in 2020 and breezing past record highs to reach above $47,000 onThursday.

The largest single donations were made the day after Navalny's return to Russia - one whole bitcoin - and on the eve and immediately after protests in his support on Jan. 23 - 0.86bitcoin and another whole bitcoin, according to data on theblockchain.com website.

"We had a very big inflow of donations," said Volkov."Mostly from normal people. There's nothing complicated about it."

Since 2016, when Navalny's regional network began accepting bitcoin transfers, more than 658 bitcoins have been gifted. At the current price, that is worth about $31 million.

Also Read | Bitcoin | what's all the buzz about it?

At the moment, however, the balance of Team Navalny's bitcoin wallet has fallen to 1.49277086 bitcoins.

Navalny's team also accepts payments via bank and card transfers as well as via Paypal.

Russian authorities periodically block the bank accounts of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, a separate organisation he founded which conducts investigations into official corruption.

"They try to close down our bank accounts – but we just open new ones," said Volkov.

The authorities opened a criminal case against the foundation in 2019, accusing it of money laundering to the tune of about 1 billion roubles ($13.6 million). In December 2020,another criminal case was opened against Navalny and others who,according to investigators, illegally spent more than 356million roubles in donations on their personal needs.

Navalny and his associates deny the allegations.


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Printable version | Aug 1, 2021 3:41:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/bitcoin-donations-to-jailed-kremlin-critic-navalnys-cause-surge/article33818102.ece

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