Russia to roll out CBDC pilot with real consumers in April

The Bank of Russia is preparing to roll out the first consumer pilot for the nation’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) on April 1, 2023.

Russia’s central bank is set to soon debut the first real-world digital ruble transactions involving 13 local banks and several merchants, first deputy governor Olga Skorobogatova said.

The official noted that the upcoming CBDC pilot will involve real operations and real consumers in Russia but will be limited to a certain number of transactions and customers, the local news agency TASS reported.

“We plan to launch the digital ruble project on April 1, with transactions involving individual transfers as well as payments in trade and service enterprises,” Skorobogatova stated at the Ural Forum Cybersecurity in Finance. She added that the banks participating in the pilot have technically confirmed their readiness to start testing the digital ruble.

The deputy governor clarified that general customers would not be able to participate in the pilot in the first stage, as the banks will enter the pilot with chosen customers. Following the first pilot stage, the Bank of Russia plans to determine how to scale the digital ruble further, Skorobogatova stated.

Bank of Russia’s first deputy governor Olga Skorobogatova. Source: Bank of Russia

The latest announcement by Skorobogatova follows the roadmap for the digital ruble rollout that the central bank officially introduced in June 2022. Initially scheduled for 2024, the consumer CBDC pilot was moved to an earlier date as the Russian central bank was looking for an alternative to the SWIFT payments system amid Western economic sanctions against Russia.

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The news comes amid some Russian officials claiming that the Bank of Russia is considering a potential gold-backed token targeting cross-border transactions. Bank of Russia’s first deputy governor Vladimir Chistyukhin believes that such a “golden token” will help Russia create a new attractive investment product and build a demanded payment method in international settlement.