The Belarusian president has exhorted citizens to “start mining cryptocurrencies” instead of choosing to work in other countries, citing the fact that the country has adequate electricity, according to Coin Telegraph.
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Last Friday, President Alexander Lukashenko asked citizens to forgo work abroad in agriculture in favor of cryptocurrency mining at home, while attending the opening of the new Petrikovsky mining and processing plant.
“Build something based on electricity. After all, start mining cryptocurrencies or whatever it’s called. There is enough electricity in the country,” he said.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Energy said that it was exploring the potential risks and benefits of crypto mining.
Belarus is currently grappling with a political crisis that has morphed into an economic crisis fueled by a budget deficit, the pandemic, mounting foreign debt, and shrinking investments. Last month, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned several Belarusian leaders for crackdowns on democratic protests and forcing down a RyanAir flight carrying a prominent dissident.
As Belarus contends with sanctions, there is already evidence that Bitcoin has emerged as a potential way to circumvent U.S. sanctions for some countries. Iran’s sanctions-battered economy has generated nearly $1 billion a year from Bitcoin mining and is now home to approximately 4.5% of global mining from the cryptocurrency.
Similarly, this spring, the U.S. State Department placed several senior officials in El Salvador — which is adopting Bitcoin as legal tender on September 7 — on a list for corruption, with many seeing the country’s move to legalize Bitcoin as a distraction from the country’s creep toward authoritarianism.
In Belarus, there is already a growing appetite for crypto, however. Last November, the country’s largest bank, Belarusbank, unveiled a cryptocurrency exchange enabling customers to use Visa cards to buy Bitcoin. Last year, Lukashenko also expressed interest in using surplus energy from the state’s first nuclear power plant for crypto mining.