A Russian official claims that his country never partnered with Venezuela on the Petro, Venezuela’s national cryptocurrency, Russia’s news source Tass reported on Friday. The Petro marks the world’s first state cryptocurrency.
Artyom Kozhin, deputy director of the information and press department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, on Friday claimed a news story published by Time magazine and other news sources claiming to have an exclusive on the Petro’s Russian origin are false.
The Russian Finance Ministry advised Time magazine that it firmly denied any involvement in the Petro, and that Time ignored the ministry’s statement. In a meeting on Feb. 21, 2018 in Moscow, Kozhin said Simon Zerpa, Venezuela’s Minster of Economy and Finance, gave a booklet about the cryptocurrency to the Russian finance minister only to inform the Russians about the project, but none of the parties mentioned reviewed or discussed Russian-Venezuelan activity about cryptocurrency.
The Petro, the rate of which is linked to the cost of oil produced in Venezuela, was announced in December by Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro as a payment tool to escape global sanctions and a U.S. blockade. The Petro pre-sale of 82.4 million Petros was announced on Feb. 20, 2018.
Time magazine reported that Russian president Vladimir Putin authorized helping Venezuela launch the Petro, citing anonymous sources close to the “half hidden joint venture.”
The Time report mentioned two Russians with ties to Russian banks acting as advisers on the Petro, Denis Druzhkov and Fyodor Bogorodsky. The two Russians were reportedly seated in the front row in the presidential palace during the Petro’s launch.
Druzhkov, according to an Associated Press report, is CEO of Zeus Trading, which was fined $31,000 and barred from trading three years ago by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange for fraudulent trading in futures’ contracts.
Bogorodsky, according to the report, lives in Uruguay and was described by the government as director of a company, Aerotrading, whose website consists of a single home page with no company information.
Senior Kremlin advisers have overseen the Petro project, according to a Russian state bank executive who deals with cryptocurrencies, Time reported. In addition, Putin signed off on the project last year, the report said.
“People close to Putin, they told him this is how to avoid the sanctions. This is how the whole thing started,” the state bank executive reportedly added.
The Kremlin did not respond to a request for comment from Time, but Moscow’s Finance Ministry said none of Russia’s financial authorities were involved in developing or launching the Petro.
The Venezuelan government did not respond to the magazine for comment either.
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