Yesterday, on the Volgograd Prefecture’s website, an announcement was made that they had filed a criminal investigation against leading bitcoin exchange BTC-e as well as Metabank. The two firms were being cited for violation of engaging with virtual currencies, which was deemed illegal activity by the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) last week.
Following the news, on their chat forum, a BTC-e representative stated that the news doesn’t affect them as they are based in Cyprus, while Metabank is publicly stating on its website that they no longer are involved with bitcoin or other virtual currency activity following the January 27th announcement from the CBR.
This morning, things have gone a different direction as the Volgograd Prefecture has announced on its website that yesterday’s statement of a criminal investigation was false and that the result of hacking on their website.
What’s really going on?
When the post went live yesterday, there was some debate about its authenticity. However, the website is an official Russian government outlet, as well as the timing following last week’s CBR made the investigation appear legit.
As such, despite the Volgograd Prefecture’s statement today, there is a belief that yesterday’s post on their website was authentic. However, due to either politics taking place in the background, or authorities simply using the announcement to gauge public response, they have retracted their statement and claim it to be the ‘work’ of hackers.
Either way, our Russian sources are quick to point out that ‘this is how things run around here’. Regardless of which post was truly the ‘real’ hacked statement, opinion from the country is that the government is taking a negative stance against bitcoins and other digital currencies and any firm that is publicly engaged in dealing with the product runs a serious risk of being shut down and investigated for criminal activity. In terms of individuals, as mentioned yesterday, ownership currently appears to be 100% legal, but no one would be surprised if that government stance changes.