Several crypto “news” outlets have gone ham with a story about the Russian government allegedly planning a massive purchase of bitcoin. Russia has made no official announcement to this effect. This reporter first came in contact with the story as it “broke” at The Daily Hodl, a site previously not known to this reporter as a source of fake news. This reporter does not speak Russian and has little clue how the Russian government works. One thing that was certain: there were no official Russian government sources making statements about Russia buying Bitcoin.
Russia to Use Bitcoin as a Hedge Against US Sanctions?
January 6th, economist Vladislav Ginko, who works at the state-funded Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, posted to Twitter that he believes Russia has no choice besides bitcoin as a hedge against economic losses taken as a result of the US sanctions against Russia.
Chris, I believe sitting here in Moscow, Russia, that the real factor of Bitcoin apotion will be when Russian government I'm working for will start investing almost $470 billion reserves into Bitcoins. I expect that it'll be at least $10 billion in the first quarter of this year.
— Vladislav Ginko (@martik) January 6, 2019
Back in mid-December, the Trump administration added several Russians to the list of sanctioned entities which US companies and persons cannot trade with. Ties with Russia have been strained since the US’s entry into the Syrian civil conflict.
The sanctions and listings undertaken today are one part of an aggressive stand against the irresponsible acts directed by the Government of the Russian Federation. Russian intelligence services’ cyber operations continue to seek to undermine democratic elections and delegitimize international organizations. Additionally, it is clear that Russian intelligence operatives used a military grade nerve agent to carry out an assassination attempt inside the borders of our closest ally, a violation of Russia’s obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
The same day as the Daily Hodl report went out, a story it cited in Forbes read:
Although Russia is not a big exporter to the U.S., canceled energy and defense contracts in Europe coupled with bans on financing Russia’s key lenders have had an impact on the economy.
The Source Cites Himself
From there, Bitcoinist.com published a story based on the same sources. An Imgur user has created a convenient chart of how this fake news came to be:
As you can see with Vladislav Ginko's latest tweets, he presently cites the articles based on his own tweets as evidence of his claims. All of the reports he tweets about link back to him as the source. Even well-known Telegraph.co.uk posted a story based on the dubious claims. The Telegraph even upgraded Ginko from an academic to a "Kremlin economist."
Ginko also makes bizarre tweets like the following, where he claims convicted Ponzi scheme operator Bernie Madoff is the true Satoshi Nakamoto:
I promise to fight for the freedom of Bernard Madoff, the true Satoshi Nakamoto. @realDonaldTrump be courageous, ask for the retrial of Bernie, he's innocent, he was silenced and threatened since he was too much aware of murky financial deals of Obama & Biden.
— Vladislav Ginko (@martik) January 12, 2019
He has retweeted articles citing him dozens of times. This is exactly how fake news takes root, via the Big Lie theory. Tell a lie big enough and the people will believe it. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
The following is an incomplete list of those who have run a story to the effect of Russia planning to buy $10 billion in Bitcoin:
- The Telegraph
- The Daily Hodl
I’m A Public Media Personality, You Can Trust Me
Ginko says he is a public personality in Russian media.
I'm public media figure too. I'm frequently appearing on TV and radio stations, Russian tv channel Rossiya 1 https://t.co/AVRCY3skXW and Russian Sputnik radio https://t.co/umsjaTt5Ia I write about cryptocurrencies, about cost management of mining companies https://t.co/dJgW5V1XUP
— Vladislav Ginko (@martik) January 7, 2019
Overall, the claim is sketchy. In a speculative sense, well-known eToro advisor Mati Greenspan seems to love the idea:
From everything I can see, Russia has every incentive to add bitcoin to their national reserves. The only thing holding them back is a legal framework to do so. https://t.co/1nVqidbHca
— Mati Greenspan (@MatiGreenspan) January 14, 2019
As previously noted, CCN has not gotten any official comment from Russian officials. The last we knew, Russia was still waffling on cryptocurrency regulations.
This was reported by CCN just 5 days before the new parties were added to the sanctions list. To date, the government has made no official pronouncement about acquiring a large amount of Bitcoin. In the event that Russia was to consider bitcoin use in an official capacity, they would not be the first. One of their trading partners, Iran, has previously expressed interest in cryptocurrencies as a way to thwart US sanctions.
It seems Ginko might be trying to fake it until Russia makes it so. All the same, fake news is fake news, and that’s all we find here in this “Russia buying $10 billion in Bitcoin” story.