Russia bans Bitcoin, labels it a “money substitute”

You have to feel sorry for Bitcoin users trying to keep up with their favorite cryptocurrency, as every week its fortunes seem to swing up and down. In the past 24 hours, Russia has officially banned the use of Bitcoin in a ruling that labels it a “money substitute” — essentially, if you have a Bitcoin wallet on your computer in Russia, you’re breaking the law.

The official statement (fire up your Google Translate plugins) notes that virtual currencies such as Bitcoin have been associated with criminal money laundering, and this is part of the reason why the authorities have clamped down on their use. The announcement also makes reference to Bitcoin’s “lack of security” and fluctuating value.

This doesn’t mean that Bitcoin will disappear overnight from Russia: as TechCrunch points out, it’s likely to be only companies using Bitcoin and located in the country who will be targeted. Despite Bitcoin’s founding principle of being an unregulated alternative currency, its growing prominence makes that ideal harder to maintain.

In other Bitcoin news,  Japan’s Mt. Gox exchange has been forced to shut down for the weekend as it struggles with issues affecting customer payments. Once the go-to exchange for the virtual currency, Mt. Gox has struggled with government seizures and technical glitches in recent months.

In a press release, the exchange says: “All Bitcoin withdrawal requests will be on pause, and the withdrawals in the system will be returned to your MtGox wallet and can be reinitiated once the issue is resolved. The trading platform will perform as usual for the needs of our customers.” An update is expected on Monday.

Another tumultuous week for Bitcoiners then, but this is to be expected when you sign up for a fledging cryptocurrency that the authorities can’t make their minds up on. At least Apple’s position is clear: all Bitcoin apps have now been removed from the App Store, much to the chagrin of users.

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