By Tom Wilson
LONDON (Reuters) – Trading volumes between the Russian rouble and the Tether cryptocurrency spiked sharply on Monday as the local currency tumbled to a record low on Western sanctions, data shared with Reuters showed.
Rouble-denominated trades with the Tether – a so-called stablecoin – hit $29.4 million, their highest this year and around three times more than a week earlier, according to Arcane Research, an Oslo-based digital asset researcher.
Stablecoins are a type of cryptocurrency designed to avoid the wild fluctuations that plague bitcoin. In theory, their steady value allows users to protect funds or savings in times of economic stress.
The figures suggest surging interest in crypto among Russians after Western sanctions imposed on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine took a toll on the local currency.
The Russian rouble tumbled to a record low in volatile trade on Monday, losing a third of its value so far this year, after the West ramped up sanctions including blocking banks from the SWIFT global payments system.
Trading between the rouble and bitcoin (BTC), whose 13-year history has been peppered with wild price swings – was more muted, the data showed.
Rouble-bitcoin trading on Thursday topped $16 million, its highest this year, as Russia launched its invasion. On Monday it totalled about $8.5 million.
“People with the rouble are trying to get out of it due to the drastic devaluation after all the sanctions,” said Arcane’s Bendik Norheim Schei.
“Under the current market conditions, I’m not surprised to see investors, at least those in Russia, seeking stablecoins and not taking on the market risk of BTC. This is about saving their funds, not investing.”
(Reporting by Tom Wilson; editing by Simon Jessop and Toby Chopra)