Russian Lawmakers Urge Central Bank to Rethink Digital Ruble Plans

A bridge in central Moscow, Russia.
Source: Alex Zarubi/Unsplash

Russian lawmakers want the country’s Central Bank to ditch its current retail model digital ruble in favor of a wholesale alternative.

Per Interfax, three State Duma committees submitted a joint response to the Central Bank’s monetary policy report for 2024-2026.

The committees said they want the Central Bank to “return to considering”  introducing a wholesale digital ruble model.

Lawmakers said this type of coin could help businesses and financial firms in the country make interbank payments.

The Central Bank initially considered a wholesale model, but in April 2021 decided to scrap the idea and “give preference to a retail model.”

The bank has since launched real-world pilots for its retail model, and hopes to expand these early next year.

The bank wants to make a nationwide rollout by early 2025, and also hopes the CBDC will soon make a debut on the international stage.

But Interfax reported that the a passage in the committees’ joint statement reads:

“The retail digital ruble is intended to expand the payment capabilities of the public and business. The committees note that some foreign nations are experimenting with […] digital currencies that are intended for wholesale settlements between banks, with a view to cross-border use.”

The MPs claimed that switching to a wholesale model would be a “timely turn” for the nation and its economic plans.

And they claimed the move “would help Russia avoid missing out on flexibility and adaptability boosts.”

The lawmakers claimed that launching a wholesale CBDC would help Russia steal a march on its international rivals.

They said that while other wholesale CBDCs “remain in experimental phases,” a Russian wholesale digital ruble could help supercharge the nation’s economy.

According to parliamentarians, a wholesale coin would help the nation’s banks fight Western-led sanctions.

They said that the “cross-border payment innovation” would help Moscow “reduce its dependence on Western payment infrastructure.”

MPs added that the project could be combined with wholesale digital fiat drives for cross-border payments.

They said this could help facilitate trade between BRICS nations, as well as nearby Russian allies.

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Will Russia Rethink its Digital Ruble Plans?

Some central banks in other regions are exploring the possible launch of two-tier or parallel CBDC projects.

However, the Russian Central Bank has previously spoken of its intention to provide CBDC solutions for unbanked citizens.

The bank also thinks its retail token will function as an alternative to cash for payments in some of Russia’s more remote regions.

The pilot is currently operating in 11 cities nationwide, including the capital Moscow and Yekaterinburg.

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