Russian Central Bank Tempers Talk of 2024 Digital Ruble Rollout


Source: I/Adobe

The Russian Central Bank is playing down talk of a 2024 rollout for its digital ruble – insisting that the coin will not be ready for nationwide use before 2025.

Per Tass, the bank’s press service said that while it was ready to go ahead with an “expansion” of its existing 13-bank, 11-city CBDC pilot, 2024 digital ruble activities would remain “limited.” A spokesperson told the news agency:

“Currently, a digital ruble pilot is underway with a limited number of participants. […] Next year, the number of participants will expand, but will still be limited.”

The Central Bank discounted the possibility of bringing the rollout forward to next year. The spokesperson added:

“The pilot will continue at least until the end of 2024, and, if necessary, will be extended. Only after the completion of the pilot will the digital ruble be introduced into mass circulation.”

Some 600 Russians are currently trialing the coin in a variety of “real-world” scenarios, including the Moscow Metro system.

Passengers board and alight from a train in a station on the Moscow Metro.
The Moscow Metro. (Source: Christophe Meneboeuf [CC BY-SA 3.0])

Russian Finance Ministry Favors a Fast CBDC Rollout

The bank’s comments come days after the Russian finance ministry stated that “all Russians” would be able to use the CBDC next year.

Minister Anton Siluanov told attendees at a forum that “in 2024, all Russians will be able to experience making use of digital ruble wallets to make payments.”

The ministry also wants to fast-track the launch of CBDC-powered benefits payments made with “marked” or colored tokens.

Siluanov said that the government will be able to eliminate benefits fraud and the misuse of government subsidies by “marking” coins and ensuring they are spent as intended.

The bank also reiterated that it would allow citizens to make commission-free P2P transfers with the CBDC.

The bank will change commission, however, for business-to-business transactions. The spokesperson stated:

“One of the main advantages of the national digital currency is free transfers, regardless of the amount. This will mean citizens are not at the mercy of commercial banks’ limits and conditions. As for businesses, the commission rate for accepting payments made in digital rubles will be minimal – at just 0.3%.”

Siluanov’s more bullish statements on CBDC issuance belie an ongoing rift between the Central bank and the ministry.

The parties have previously clashed on crypto policy, with the ministry favoring a more progressive approach to regulation – and the bank calling for an outright ban.