EU targets crypto wallets in latest round of Russia sanctions

Representations of the virtual currency Bitcoin stand on a motherboard in this picture illustration taken May 20, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

LONDON (Reuters) - The European Union on Friday targeted crypto wallets, banks, currencies and trusts in its fifth package of sanctions on Russia in a bid to close potential loopholes which could allow Russians to move money abroad.

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, EU-based crypto exchanges were already required to apply sanctions that bar transactions from targeted individuals, but there were concerns that loopholes remained.

The EU on Friday said it was extending the prohibition to deposits to crypto-wallets.

"This will contribute to closing potential loopholes," the EU's executive European Commission said in a statement.

Crypto wallets allow individuals to keep the password that gives them access to cryptocurrencies safe, and to send, receive and spend cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

The EU said it is also banning the sale of banknotes and transferable securities, such as shares, denominated in any official currencies of EU member states to Russia and Belarus.

It also confirmed a full transaction ban on four Russian banks, including VTB, representing 23% of market share in the Russian banking sector.

The banks have already been cut off from the international bank messaging system SWIFT and will be now subject to an asset freeze to completely cut them off from EU markets, the bloc said.

There is also a ban on advising on trusts for wealthy Russians, to make it more difficult for them to store their wealth in the EU.

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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