The rollout of The Bank of Russia’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) pilot is being delayed indefinitely. However, participating banks have stated their readiness to begin the testing.
As reported by the state-owned TASS on March 28, the CBDC pilot won’t start on April 1, as previously announced, because specific legislation has only passed through the first reading in the State Duma — the Federal Assembly’s lower house. According to TASS, the legislation may be enacted by early May.
The number of private banks participating in the pilot has also changed from 15 to 13. Some of the banks’ employees would become the test participants for CBDC retail payments, as well as one of the largest insurance companies in the country, Ingosstrakh.
Bank executives expressed enthusiasm for the project. The director of innovations at Sinara Bank, Vitaly Kopysov, told journalists:
“The use of smart contracts should reduce the operational load of banks and make the deals transparent, which not only will reduce the chances of the misuse of government and banks’ funds, but ultimately simplify the control over the existing contracts.”
The upcoming pilot will involve real operations and consumers, although it will be limited in scale. The general public will be unable to participate in the first stage, as the banks will enter the pilot with chosen customers. Following the first stage, the Bank of Russia intends to determine how to scale the digital ruble further.
Initially scheduled for 2024, the consumer CBDC pilot was moved to an earlier date as the Russian central bank sought an alternative to the SWIFT payments system amid Western economic sanctions against Russia.