Kremlin pressure and Western sanctions have forced the Russian news outlet Meduza to increasingly rely on cryptocurrency donations to fund its independent journalism. Because restrictions imposed in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine prevent Russian readers from donating in fiat currency, the Riga-based site now accepts multiple digital coins.
Meduza withdraws journalists from Russia and seeks cryptocurrency support
The war in Ukraine has affected Russian-language news site Meduza not in the least, Bloomberg reports. Shortly after the Kremlin’s “special military operation” began, President Vladimir Putin’s administration clamped down on independent reporting on the conflict, and the media outlet sought help to relocate 25 of its journalists to Latvia.
The small Baltic country of about 2 million people, home to a large Russian-speaking minority, has become a hub for Russian media in exile. Western sanctions, however, are preventing the 30,000 Russian Meduza readers who supported it before the conflict from sending funds through Stripe, after the payment processor suspended service in Russian Federation to comply with sanctions.
The war and sanctions forced Meduza to reach out to its international audience and ask for financial assistance in U.S. dollars, euros or cryptocurrency. The company now accepts card payments, bank transfers, Paypal transfers and a variety of coins, including bitcoin (BTC), ether (ETH), stabelcoin tether (USDT) and privacy-oriented monero (XMR). The report notes that the BTC and ETH wallets provided have already accumulated about $230,000 worth of cryptocurrency.
Commenting on the situation, Ivan Kolpakov, editor-in-chief of the news portal, noted that at the moment Meduza only collects about half of what it needs to develop. Refusing to disclose the total amount of donations, he noted that this is the first time the site collects cryptocurrency and relies entirely on money from foreigners, and said:
We couldn’t have predicted that sanctions from Western governments would come first and destroy our crowdfunding.
Independent Russian media outlets have faced unprecedented pressure from the authorities in Moscow, resulting in some closures and others being blocked by the Russian state. In March, Novaya Gazeta suspended publication after receiving warnings about its coverage, and the radio station Ekho Moskvy handed over its FM frequency to the state-run Sputnik agency.
Meduza, which was founded in the Latvian capital after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 during another media crackdown, was labeled a “foreign agent” by the Russian government last year. This designation, aimed at Russian media receiving funding from abroad, had already affected advertising revenues before new sanctions effectively halted Russian donations.
Image Credits: Shutterstock, Pixabay, Wiki Commons