Welcome to Around the Blockchain, Huobi Learn’s daily rundown of the crypto markets.
After Ukraine’s vice PM and digital transformation minister Mykhailo Fedorov asked major crypto exchanges on Sunday to block Russian addresses, the country’s Ministry of Digital Transformation is sending official letters to eight crypto exchanges to request they block all Russian users and pull support for the Russian ruble, ruble spot pairs and fiat gateways. The letters are being sent to Huobi, Coinbase, Binance, KuCoin, Bybit, Gate.io, Whitebit and Kuna. In response, Binance said it will not ban all Russian users but will take action against sanctioned users “while minimizing impact to innocent users”. Similarly, Coinbase said it will not “punish ordinary Russian citizens” with a blanket ban on Russian addresses but will block accounts or transactions that “may involved sanctioned individuals or entities”. Kraken responded in kind, saying it will not freeze Russian accounts unless legally required to do so.
Heather Morgan, one of the alleged Bitfinex money launderers, might soon be offered a plea deal that could allow her to avoid a public trial. Prosecutors have said they are in talks with her attorneys on a possible “resolution” to her case that does not involve a public trial. Though both she and her husband, Ilya “Dutch” Litchtenstein, have been accused of laundering the proceeds of the 2016 Bitfinex hack (valued at approximately $5 billion today), there seems to be less direct evidence connecting her to the crime.
South Africa-based crypto exchange VALR has raised $50 million in what it says is the largest funding round ever for an African crypto firm. The Series B equity funding values VALR at $240 million, over 10 times its valuation in July 2020, when it raised $3.4 million in its Series A funding. The most recent funding round was led by Pantera Capital, with participation from Alameda Research, Coinbase Ventures, Cadenza, CMT Digital, Distributed Global, GSR, Third Prime and Avon Ventures. The new funding will be used to increase VALR’s reach throughout Africa, support expansion into emerging markets like India, offer existing customers more products and services, and hire more people.
Israeli authorities have seized a set of 30 crypto wallets from 12 exchange accounts linked to terrorist organization Hamas. Crypto exchange al-Mutahadun held the wallets, which were allegedly being used by Hamas leaders to fund terrorist efforts against Israel. Israel’s Defense Ministry said the exchange had aided Hamas’ military wing by “transferring funds amounting to tens of millions of dollars a year”. Hamas has been accepting crypto donations since 2019, when economic sanctions started greatly hampering its ability to attack Israel. Last July, Israel’s National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing (NBCTF) confiscated wallets containing USDT, ETH, DOGE and other assets, which were being used by Hamas military wing al Qassam Brigades.
Several European league football fan tokens have posted double-digit growth following the partnership between UEFA and the Socios fan token platform to bring NFTs and other redeemable perks to European football fans. The three fan tokens that saw the largest gains in the last 24 hours are BAR (FC Barcelona), ASR (AS Roma) and ATM (Atletico De Madrid), all part of the Chilliz (CHZ) protocol. The UEFA-Socios partnership, contracted through 2024, places Socios as the regional sponsor for the Champions League and makes fan tokens available for free to fan token holders of clubs participating in the Champions League, as well as the Europa League and Europa Conference League. Fan token holders who hold their tokens on the Socios app can win VIP experiences or free NFTs dropped during live gameplay.
Show me the money
According to data from Huobi Global, BTC continued to rise from last night, though the upward trend has slowed down. ETH saw a similar pattern, and daily charts for both show signs of an upward trend. Contracts-wise, Huobi Futures data showed stable open interest (OI) in both BTC and ETH futures, with a slight decrease in volume amid a relatively inactive contract market.
After the US Treasury Department imposed new sanctions against Russia’s central bank, BTC has risen by 10.4% to $41,807.16 and ETH by 7.6% to $2,626.54. Crypto data firm Kaiko said that since Russia launched its invasion into Ukraine last Thursday, transactions on centralized Bitcoin exchanges in both the Russian ruble and Ukrainian hryvnia have reached their highest levels in months. AscendEx venture associate Michael Rinko said that while the conflict highlighted the importance of BTC’s borderless and censorship-resistant traits, crypto outperforming broader markets was a reflection of “rate hikes getting priced out” as people are “increasingly skeptical about the Fed’s ability and willingness to aggressively hike amid this uncertain geopolitical backdrop”.