ChronoPay Looks to Kickstart Bitcoin Adoption in Russia
ChronoPay, one of Russia’s oldest online payments providers, is including bitcoin to its payment gateway, enabling all of its clients to accept the world’s most popular cryptocurrency.
“I have publicly criticized bitcoin in the past,” stated ChronoPay founder and chief executive Pavel Vrublevsky, in a phone call with CCN & Hacked today. The former bitcoin skeptic, a controversial figure, has since changed his opinion on bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. “I apologize to everyone – I’ve changed my point of view radically,” he wrote in a public post today, after having “thoroughly studied the subject.”
Established in 2003, ChronoPay is among Russia’s earliest online payment companies. The Moscow-based company is plugged into international payment platforms like VISA, MasterCard, American Express, Maestro and other regional payment systems. Bitcoin will now be among them.
“It’s already enabled,” Vrublevsky tells CCN & Hacked when asked when the company plans begin supporting bitcoin payments on its gateway.
It is like any other payment method. There will be a bitcoin button next to other payment options during a transaction.
To facilitate payments with the cryptocurrency, Vrublevsky reveals that his company will also provide bitcoin wallets for merchants. A representative for the company revealed that tens of thousands of merchants, “from tiny t-shirt online shops to national industry leaders” are among its clientele.
In particular, two of Russia’s four largest mobile operators are ChronoPay clients, including MTS and Tele2 – the former which is the country’s biggest mobile operator with some 70 million users (2012 figures).
“We are working with 2 of Russia’s largest telecom companies,” confirmed Vrublevsky, who revealed that the billion dollar corporations were interested in bitcoin.
Vrublevsky said of the two telecom giants:
It’s not just about blockchain, they’re interested in the possibility of bitcoin payments.
ChronoPay’s vast clientele includes major retail stores including the likes of Holodilnik.ru; Kupivip.ru, Sony.ru and even BMW.ru. Major news organizations like Kommersant, TheMoscowTimes and Interfax are also clients, as are charity organizations like Greenpeace and WWF among others.
Such a move by the telecom giants would be significant to be sure, if only because Russian authorities have long harbored an aggressive stance toward bitcoin adopters in the country. This time last year, the Russian Finance Ministry was pushing its bill through the Russian parliament to criminalize and ban bitcoin usage in the country. Indeed, the FinMin proposed a 2-year prison term in February 2016, only to amend it to a 7-year prison term a month later in March. The bill never went through.
Russia’s deputy finance minister Alexei Moiseev has since talked about acknowledging bitcoin in a legal capacity in 2018. Vrublevsky says legalization could be even sooner.
The central bank last week announced draft legislation for bitcoin as a commodity. Bitcoin could be legalized this autumn.
“It is a complete U-turn”, added Vrublevsky, referring to the shift in bitcoin’s perception from the central bank, much like his own roundabout.
The reversal in bitcoin’s previously fickle future in Russia has seen the likes of Russia’s largest online retailer, Ulmart, planning to begin accepting bitcoin come September this year. It is all the more remarkable that the retailer was told off by Russia’s central bank from accepting bitcoin payments merely three months ago in February.
Still, it’s too early for big companies to show their hand in accepting bitcoin. While ChronoPay will enable bitcoin payments to all its clients, only those with their own bitcoin wallets – also provided by ChronoPay – will be able to accept the cryptocurrency. Big industry giants, like MTS, aren’t among them.
Vrublevsky says he is in the process of circumventing the hurdle, by establishing a workaround in the bitcoin-friendly jurisdiction of Netherlands. “I’m looking at options, possibly establishing a company in Netherlands where it will be safe for companies to have their own bitcoin wallets.”
‘ICOs Changed Everything’
The executive is adamant that the possibilty of raising money from new fundraising mechanisms like ICOs where future coins are exchanged with cryptocurrecies for immediate value. This has awoken companies to the possibility of efficient, easier funding and are in-turn, looking at cryptocurrencies in a new light, according to Vrublevsky, who made a pointed example of HumanIQ ICO. “I’m pushing ChronoPay toward bitcoin and blockchain technologies,” he said, revealing his own plans for an ICO in the future.
The executive is also planning to establish a bitcoin exchange in Russia in the future, presumably when the legislation allows for it.
For now, the bitcoin skeptic-turned-enabler is excited about bringing bitcoin payments to the mainstream in Russia.
“It’s funny,” he tells CCN & Hacked after calling us back following an earlier conversation today.
We are a big storm today in Russia, a storm unlike any in years. I’d like to think it’s because of our bitcoin annnouncement.
Featured image from Shutterstock.