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LocalBitcoins, a Finnish-based over-the-counter Bitcoin exchange announced Russia’s electronic communications megaregulator – Roskomnadzor – has blocked the local access to its website localbitcoins.com.
According to the website of Roskomnadzor, the ruling was made back in July by the Saint Petersburg regional court. The ban is taken in accordance with Article 15.1 of the Federal law on information, information technologies and protection of information. It provides for banning access to internet sites with child pornography, information about production and obtaining of narcotics, information how to commit suicide, information about gambling and lotteries forbidden in Russia and “illegal information on the internet”.
“For us, just as for you, such a decision was very unexpected,” the exchange wrote in a blog post in Russian. Further it provided detailed instructions for Russian users how to circumvent the restrictions using VPN services or the TOR network.
On one hand, this is not the first time LocalBitcoins, whose services are available in more than 240 countries, had a brush with regulators. In 2015 the exchange exited New York state after it introduced the mandatory BitLicense.
On another hand, however, Roskomnadzor is known for its heavy-handed blacklisting approach. In January 2015 the regulator blocked access to a number of bitcoin websites with the explanation that the cryptocurrencies were promoting shadow economy. The decision was overruled by a Russian court several months later. In the beginning of 2016, however, Roskomnadzor blacklisted the European bitcoin exchanges BTC-e and Bitstamp.
Meanwhile, the Russian government announced its plans to outlaw Bitcoin altogether and punish its use with hefty fines and prison time. Later the country’s deputy-finance minister Alexei Moiseev hinted at softening the stance on Bitcoin.