An FSB official says Russia's Telegram crackdown is really all about cryptocurrency
According to a letter written by a special investigations agent in the Federal Security Service, Russia is trying to block Telegram because of Pavel Durov’s plans to launch his own cryptocurrency — not because the instant messenger refused to surrender the service’s encryption keys. The magazine RBC says FSB agent Roman Antipkin started circulating his letter to colleagues on April 18. A federal official and a top executive at a major telecom company anonymously verified to RBC that the letter is real. Antipkin has refused to speak to journalists.
Pavel Chikov, whose human rights group “Agora” is defending Telegram in Russian court, is urging the public not to believe “planted stories” that revise the government’s justifications for its broad assault on Telegram. Chikov says accepting Antipkin’s claim about the authorities’ supposed true motivations is to assume that the government might drop its stated case that its actions against the instant messenger are rooted in the fight against terrorism.
“Colleagues, this story isn’t what you think!” wrote Roman Antipkin. “It’s not about [encryption] keys or terrorism [...]. Pasha Durov decided to become the new [pyramid schemer Sergey] Mavrodi. Once he’s launched his own crypto, we in Russia would get a completely unregulated financial system. And it wouldn’t be just bitcoins for geeks — it would be simple, reliable, and uncontrollable. This is a threat to our national security [...]. All drugs, off-the-books cash, and organ trading would be run through Pasha’s crypto, and he’d say, ‘This has nothing to do with me. Go ahead and ban speech — terrorists use it, after all.’”
What's the Telegram cryptocurrency? In late 2017, Telegram founder and CEO Pavel Durov announced that he plans to use Telegram as a basis for a new blockchain platform called Telegram Open Network and a new cryptocurrency called “Gram.” By March 2018, Telegram raised $1.7 billion from investors in two closed Initial Coin Offerings.