Statement in support of rights-preserving technologies amidst situation in Ukraine

March 2, 2022

The following statement can be attributed to Lia Holland (she/they), Campaigns & Communications Director at Fight for the Future:

“Like many around the world, we are watching in horror as the situation unfolds in Ukraine. In times of war, governments around the world generally act to restrict civil liberties and expand censorship and surveillance. Even when well-intentioned, these actions lead to more suffering for ordinary citizens. At this moment, decentralized technologies like Element and Tor, as well as cryptocurrencies, are being used to aid Ukrainian citizens, journalists, and Russian peace protesters alike. We agree with US officials who have asked that cryptocurrency exchanges do not blanket block all Russians.

It is essential to separate the facts from the misconceptions when it comes to cryptocurrencies and sanctions avoidance. US Treasury officials are “not overly worried” with cryptocurrency being used to dodge sanctions. As Politico detailed: “laundering large amounts of money through a dizzying array of digital wallets and exchanges is expensive, time-consuming and would likely be visible in the broader cryptocurrency market.” A former Treasury official put it this way: “We have never had more visibility of financial flows and money laundering than we do today in cryptocurrency.”

Meanwhile, cryptocurrency is used by people in failed states, failing states, or war-torn states to preserve their savings and buy lifesaving goods and services. Many of these people are victims of war suffering under totalitarian regimes. Yes, Russian people are using cryptocurrency as their economy collapses. So are Ukranians as war interrupts their ability to access their savings from traditional banks. This is not uncommon. Cryptocurrency was used during and after the collapse of Afghanistan by those fleeing and those providing humanitarian aid to bypass banks and discreetly avoid the Taliban.

Now is not the time to carelessly cut off purchasing power for basic necessities or travel by ordinary citizens, and/or decentralized organizing tools that activists and those living under the terrible consequences of war are relying upon.”