MOSCOW (Reuters) – The movement of incarcerated Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has received bitcoin donations worth nearly $ 300,000 this year, which, according to a data analysis, exceeds the total amount it received in 2020 in cryptocurrency at the then prices.
FILE PHOTO: Leonid Volkov, an ally of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, speaks during a press conference in Berlin on August 21, 2020. REUTERS / Fabrizio Bensch / File Photo
Navalny made headlines in January after returning to Russia for the first time since being poisoned in Siberia last summer. He was arrested and sentenced to nearly three years in prison in February in a case he believed to be politically motivated.
His anti-Kremlin movement has been accepting donations in Bitcoin through its network of regional political headquarters since 2016 to make it difficult for Russian intelligence agencies to track and potentially disrupt their funding.
Leonid Volkov, who is responsible for all of Navalny’s campaign headquarters across Russia, told Reuters that total donations in January had doubled from the previous month, but donations had not broken down by payment method or revealed how much was received.
However, the campaign’s Bitcoin wallet viewed by Reuters showed that it received 6,242 bitcoins from January 1 to February 11. At the current rates, that’s nearly $ 300,000.
This exceeds the value of all Bitcoin donations received for 2020, according to calculations by the cryptocurrency website Protos, with each donation being valued based on Bitcoin prices at the time it was made.
Bitcoin rebounded hard, jumping over 300% in 2020 and breaking record highs to hit over $ 47,000 on Thursday.
The largest single donations were made the day after Navalny’s return to Russia – a whole bitcoin – and the night before and immediately after protests in support of him on Jan. 23 – 0.86 bitcoin and another whole bitcoin, according to data on blockchain.com Website.
“We had a very large amount of donations,” said Volkov. “Mostly by normal people. There is nothing complicated about it. “
Since 2016, when the Navalny regional network accepted bitcoin transfers, more than 658 bitcoins have been given. At the current price, that’s around $ 31 million.
For now, however, Team Navalny’s Bitcoin wallet has dropped to 1.49277086 bitcoins.
The Navalny team also accepts payments via bank and card transfers as well as PayPal.
The Russian authorities regularly block the bank accounts of the Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation, a separate organization he founded to conduct investigations into official corruption.
“They are trying to close our bank accounts – but we are just opening new ones,” said Volkov.
Authorities opened criminal proceedings against the foundation in 2019, accusing it of about 1 billion rubles ($ 13.6 million) in money laundering. In December 2020, another criminal case was opened against Navalny and others who, according to investigators, illegally spent more than 356 million rubles on their personal needs.
Navalny and his staff deny the allegations.
($ 1 = 73.7352 rubles)
Additional coverage by Rinat Sagdiev; Arrangement by Andrew Osborn and Pravin Char