Russian dissident raises $3M with crypto to combat Putin

Not only are sanctioned countries turning to cryptocurrency to keep their economies going, but it now appears dissident politicians have to. Alexei Navalny, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s detractors, has put together a healthy war chest of Bitcoin Core (BTC), reports CoinDesk.

According to publicly available blockchain data, it’s estimated that Navalny has received 591 BTC in donations, adding up to approximately $3 million. The information was available by analyzing the BTC donation address listed on Navalny’s website.

In total, the wallet has seen 2,000 transactions since becoming available in December 2016, including both deposits and withdrawals. The biggest transaction appeared to be worth 20 BTC.

It became a matter of public debate in Russia recently when pro-Putin television shows questioned the motivation of the donations. Navalny also runs the Anti-Corruption Foundation (shortened to FBK in Russia). That group published an investigation just days after a big round of donations were sent to Navalny. That coincidence caused pro-Putin media to argue the FBK is being paid off to make their dear leader look bad.

FBK’s chief of staff, Leonid Volkov, says Navalny’s funding had nothing to do with the facts of their investigation, and gave an argument that may make more sense in context, or Russian:

“You can say that each time Encke’s Comet approaches the Earth it coincides with a big war: 1914 (First World War), 1941 (World War II) and 2014 (War on Eastern Ukraine). But its rotation period is three years, and it approached the Earth many times when there were no big wars.”

Even if Navalny is using the donated BTC purely to prepare for political battles with Putin, $3 million won’t add up to much. Putin spent $7 million personally on the 2018 election, which was mired in controversy and alleged corruption. Putin doesn’t really need to spend all that much to win, if all he needs to do is rig the election and jail his opponents, or worse.

Navalny’s use of BTC as a donation source does give him the advantage of avoiding potential interference in his fundraising from the state, so it’s likely he’ll continue using it. Although as Coindesk and Russian media have now proven, it also gives Putin a very good idea of what he’s up against.

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