Russia has stepped up its plans to exploit the potential of distributed ledger technology (DLT) with the announcement that state-owned bank Vnesheconombank (VEB) is to open a blockchain research centre in Moscow.
The centre will be based at the Headquartered at the National University of Science and Technology in Moscow and will be a central part of the Russian government's broader digital initiative, a project that was reportedly initiated at the behest of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
According to VEB chief executive Sergei Gorkov, the research centre will pave the way for the bank to invest in blockchain projects and eventually develop its own blockchain-based services and products.
"In September, we will open the first centre focused on blockchain, convergent, and quantum technologies at the National University of Science and Technology (MISIS)," he said at the launch event. "We plan to create a group of investment funds with external financing from both Russian and foreign investors."
The launch event coincided with a recent three day blockchain event held in Tatarstan that featured blockchain heavyweights like Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin as guest speakers.
Buterin is reportedly admired by Putin who sees Ethereum as a way to help Russia diversify its economy beyind oil and gas. After meeting Buterin, Putin declared that "the digital economy isn’t a separate industry, it’s essentially the foundation for creating brand new business models".
Putin's enthusiasm for the blockchain is a contrast to the former sentiment of some of his advisers. Back in March 2016, the Presidential Adviser on the Internet, German Klimenko, claimed that cryptocurrencies were a "virus going straight into the head".
Meanwhile Burger King Russia became the first fast food outlet to launch a cryptocurrency-based loyalty scheme with the introduction of Whoppercoins. One billion of the virtual coins have been issued so far with customers receiving one coin for every ruble spent on burgers and chips.
“Now Whopper is not only burger that people in 90 different countries love, it’s an investment tool as well,” Ivan Shestov, head of external communications at Burger King Russia said in a statement.
While the Burger King development may be more gimmick than investment tool, other recent developments such as the piliot of a blockchain platform resistant to hacking from a qauntum computer which was announced back in June, suggest Russia is prioritising blockchain and DLT as an area of national importance.