Bank of Russia To Test Digital Ruble in Consumer Pilot Program Starting April 2023

Russia’s central bank is launching a digital ruble pilot program, paving the way for the country’s entry into the world of CBDCs.

According to a report by Helen Partz for Cointelegraph published earlier today, which cited a report by the news agency TASS, the Bank of Russia is getting ready to launch the first consumer pilot of the nation’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) on 1 April 2023. The first real-world digital ruble transactions involving 13 local banks and several merchants will be conducted, according to Olga Skorobogatova, who is a first deputy governor of Russia’s central bank.

The pilot project will involve actual operations and customers in Russia, but will be limited to a fixed number of transactions and customers, TASS reported. Skorobogatova stated at the Ural Forum Cybersecurity in Finance event (held in Ekaterinburg, February 15-17, 2023) that the digital ruble project would be launched on April 1, with transactions involving individual transfers as well as payments in trade and service enterprises.

The banks participating in the pilot program have stated that they are ready to take part in the testing of the digital ruble, according to Skorobogatova. In the first stage of the pilot program, only chosen customers will be able to participate, as per the clarification by the first deputy governor. She explained that the Bank of Russia would assess how further to scale the digital ruble after the initial pilot phase.

The Bank of Russia officially introduced the digital ruble rollout roadmap in June 2022, and the consumer CBDC pilot, originally scheduled for 2024, was moved to an earlier date due to the Western economic sanctions against Russia.

In addition, some Russian officials have claimed that the Bank of Russia is considering a potential gold-backed token for cross-border transactions. The Cointelegraph report says that Vladimir Chistyukhin, another first deputy governor at the Bank of Russia, believes that such a “golden token” could serve as a new attractive investment product and a popular payment method in international settlement.

According to the TASS report, “the launch of the exchange of the digital ruble for foreign currency and the opening of wallets for non-residents may occur from 2024.”

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