March 8 (Reuters) - Utah-based cryptocurrency exchange CoinZoom is pausing applications for new accounts within Russia following the country’s escalating conflict in Ukraine, the company’s chief executive officer told Reuters.
While CoinZoom is a lesser known crypto exchange, it is one of the first to halt new business operations in Russia, with most exchanges thus far resisting calls to block Russian users despite pleas from the Ukrainian government.
Coinbase, Kraken and Binance have said that while they will comply with Western sanctions, they would not block Russian users without a legal requirement to do so.
CoinZoom Chief Executive Todd Crosland said the company decided to suspend new accounts because it was unclear how customers would fund them given that major payment firms are pulling out of Russia.
“It's a very fluid situation in Russia right now and it's very fluid with regulators, so being able to fund your account with a wire or a debit card, Mastercard, Visa — all of those funding mechanisms are being basically eliminated for Russian customers right now,” Crosland said in an interview.
CoinZoom is not blocking its existing Russian account holders but it is screening them against sanctions lists, said Crosland.
On Saturday, U.S. payments firms Visa Inc (V.N) and Mastercard Inc said they were suspending operations in Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.
Crypto exchanges have drawn criticism for refusing to block Russian users, particularly after Ukraine's Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov last month asked crypto exchanges to block the digital wallet addresses of Russian users.
Kraken CEO Jesse Powell on Twitter cited the "libertarian values" of cryptocurrencies as one of the major reasons Kraken would continue operating in Russia.
A spokesperson for Binance said in a statement that banning access to crypto “would fly in the face of the reason why crypto exists.”
Reporting by Hannah Lang in Washington; editing by Michelle Price and Jonathan Oatis
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Hannah Lang covers financial technology and cryptocurrency, including the businesses that drive the industry and policy developments that govern the sector. Hannah previously worked at American Banker where she covered bank regulation and the Federal Reserve. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park and lives in Washington, DC.