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Interview with Elena Obukhovaentrepreneur, writer, public speaker, founder and CEO at Fintech Advisory Services (FAS) by Chris Michael
“Elena, thank you for agreeing to do this interview during such a difficult time. Everyone is at a loss for words. You have a very impressive background with eight years in the crypto space – with numerous publications, keynote presentations and recognition as one of the most powerful women in blockchain. We really wanted to hear your opinion on this situation and learn how it affects you personally as a Russian.
How long do you think this situation will last?”
“It’s a tough question. Let’s look from a perspective of whether this war is going to escalate.
At this moment other countries are hesitant to get directly involved as it will be a declaration of world war. However, many people worldwide (including Russian people) are trying to help Ukraine with military, fundraising, supplies and other humanitarian help. The Russian government proclaimed that it’s illegal to donate money to Ukraine and that it will be considered treason. However, it doesn’t stop people in Russia from donating and going out to the streets to protest.
The conflict between the Russian government and Ukraine had been going on for years. Russia had faced a large number of international sanctions that followed the Crimea annexation in 2014. This situation also led to a significant crash of the national currency that dropped more than twice.
Russia was ranked as the 11th largest economy in the world according to Investopedia. Economic damage in Russia will affect everyone. Russia is one of the largest exporters of natural resources. Everyone has already noticed how gas prices skyrocketed within just a few days. Russia also plays a crucial role in the international trade and business ecosystem.
My friend from Italy, for example, reached out to me, saying that he was worried about the situation as his company’s exports are focused on Ukraine and Russia. Imagine how many people and businesses are directly or indirectly related to trades with Russia.
We may be entering a crisis and a global recession. Modern wars are not happening to expand the territories. Wars are happening because it’s a good business and there are always people who benefit from them. I’m sure there’s more behind this war. Unfortunately, there are always people who will benefit from such horror and we’ve yet to see a bigger picture.”
“What’s going on in Russia now? How does it affect people?”
“Imagine one day you wake up and your world is falling apartthat’s how people feel now in Russia. Mastercard and Visa refused to work with Russian banks, resulting in a historic bank run. Large brands like H&M, IKEA, Adidas, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Citigroup, the Big Four (KPMG, Deloitte, EY, PWC), McDonald’s, Starbucks, Netflix and others have left Russia. Key talents are leaving too. Eighty percent of people I know are now fleeing, asking for job opportunities and relocation options.
Stock markets (including trading of US stocks) were closed for a few days, and currency exchange was also restricted. Now if you want to buy USD, EUR or GBP, you would need to pay a 12% commission on top. Ruble was trading at 120 to $1 compared to October’s 68 to $1. Prices for goods and services have already doubled, with some places facing shortages of goods.
The Binance P2P market that was widely used by people to exchange fiat into crypto and vice versa was also affected. Just today I saw a 35-45% markup to buy Bitcoin with USD and a 10% markup for USDT, with only a few options available. Beginning yesterday, banks put limits on foreign currency withdrawals that are above $10,000. The remaining funds are being converted into rubles. The situation is changing daily, and this limit can get stricter.
Crypto exchanges and crypto gateways are now rejecting Russian cards, and some are rejecting Russian people in general. Despite this, people are looking for any possible way to move into cryptocurrency as it’s the only available option now. Businesses switched into crypto payments as well. I’ve never gotten that amount of requests from people asking to help with crypto wallets.”
“What about your career, and how do you think it could affect other people?”
“I have been building my career outside of Russia. I don’t have any direct connection with the Russian market and I am not familiar with local business culture. My primary focus was always on the international scene and currently is on the US and European marketsthough, I’m still a Russian passport holder and did face some issues with accounts.
Having said that, I know that people worldwide differentiate individuals and the government. Therefore, I do hope my home country’s actions would not have an impact either on my business initiatives or on other Russian people.”
“How do you see it affecting the financial system?”
“As I mentioned earlier, we may be entering a world crisis. The pandemic already made its enormous contribution toward the beginning of the global recession. This war might knock us out of any attempts to recover and throw us into a deeper hole to pull ourselves out of.
Despite this, I see more opportunities for a new way to rebuild the economy with cryptocurrency markets playing a more important role. More people might realize how crucial their role is in the global economy and financial markets. I believe that we’re on the brink of financial transformation where individuals can have more participation in global decision-making as well as obtain financial freedom.”
Chris Michael is an entrepreneur and large crypto enthusiast who joined the field in 2010. He had built a career in the entertainment industry working with Live Nation and celebrities like The Eagles, Lady Gaga, Drake, Paul McCartney, Kanye West and more. Chris Michael co-founded the exclusive crypto community Supermoon Camp, a network of industry eclectics. He also owns a full-scale production company.
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