Belarus Wants to Use Its CBDC to Evade Sanctions

Victory Square, a central square in Belarus, Minsk.
Source: christophe/Adobe

Belarus wants to accelerate the launch of its CBDC as it looks to evade US and EU-led sanctions and let its firms trade with international partners.

Per Belarus’ Ekonomicheskaya Gazeta, President Alexander Lukashenko could issue a CBDC-related verdict in the coming days. The media outlet wrote:

“A decision on the introduction of a new form of money is set to be made after a meeting that will be attended by the head of state.”

Minsk, like Moscow, has been hit with several packages of economic sanctions following the outbreak of war in Ukraine.

Trade firms have been hit especially hard. Belarusian importers and exporters are effectively frozen out of the international baking network.

But, like Moscow, Minsk has been trying to find ways around sanctions that involve dollar-free transactions.

Belarus Preparing to Use Digital Ruble to Dodge Sanctions

Belarusian government officials have been exploring CBDC issuance for several years.

However, the nation stepped up its plans for a digital Belarusian ruble in August this year, announcing plans for “real-world” testing.

Tellingly, the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) began talking up the digital BYN’s cross-border credentials from the outset.

Dmitry Kalechits, the NRBR Deputy Chairman, called the CBDC a “most significant large-scale project.”

Kalechits also spoke about the coin’s potential “use at the cross-border level.”

The media outlet called the CBDC a “mechanism” that “may appear in Belarus to allow businesses to overcome sanctions.”

The NRBR reiterated its claims from earlier this year, stating that a digital Belarusian ruble “will be of greatest interest in the cross-border payments space.”

The meeting could take place later this month after Lukashenko returns from a state visit to China.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was welcomed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Monday.

Lukashenko has become increasingly isolated following a crackdown on political opponents and his support for Russia in its war on Ukraine.

— Voice of America (@VOANews) December 5, 2023

Lukashenko met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, where the latter decried “external interference” in Belarus’ internal affairs.

Per the Global Times, Xi applauded Minsk’s attempt to “look East,” and promised to provide “strategic support.”

The developments come at a time when China is also testing its own CBDC’s cross-border capabilities.

Minsk’s long-standing ally, Moscow, has also sped up its own CBDC pilots, with a nationwide launch slated for 2025.

🇷🇺 Digital Ruble Will Spark Russia’s ‘Biggest Monetary Reforms Since the 1990s’

The launch of the Russian digital ruble will trigger the nation’s “largest monetary reforms since the 1990s.”#CryptoNews #Russia

— (@cryptonews) December 4, 2023

Russian politicians have similarly stated that the digital (Russian) ruble will be used in the international trade space.

However, until CBDC-powered trade becomes a reality, Belarusian traders could be forced into much cruder measures.

The same media outlet explained that the central bank recently approved a law that allows “exporters to make payments in cash” until the end of 2024.

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