Russian financial institutions MTS and PSB have initiated testing of the digital ruble, with entrepreneurs actively utilizing the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) to settle payments for various services.
In recent weeks, Russia’s Central Bank has expedited its CBDC project and is targeting a nationwide rollout between 2025 and 2027. Collaborating banks such as VTB Bank, alongside MTS and PSB, have reported that both customers and employees are already conducting “real-world” transactions using the digital ruble after advanced pilot programs kicked off last week.
Igor Chuchkin, the Chief of Payment Technology at MTS, expressed his enthusiasm, stating, “We plan to look into more digital ruble-related offerings that we can offer our customers in the future, and we will base these on our initial experiences during the pilot.”
Meanwhile, PSB (Promsvyazbank) shared details of a tangible digital ruble transaction on its platform. According to the media outlet Argumenti i Facti, PSB facilitated the creation of a digital wallet for a client, allowing them to utilize an app-generated QR code to make a successful payment for services. This particular client was an entrepreneur operating in the online education sector. Additionally, the entrepreneur could exchange digital rubles for traditional rubles and vice versa using the PSB mobile app, and they completed a business-to-customer (B2C) transaction with digital rubles.
Transaction fees for using the digital ruble have been set at 0.3%, with peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions exempt from charges, as stated by the Central Bank.
Beyond MTS and PSB, approximately 11 other Russian banks are conducting CBDC tests with a select group of clients in nearly a dozen cities across the country. The Central Bank has indicated that 16 additional banks, including regional ones, are ready to swiftly join the pilot program.
However, not all of Russia’s major banks share the same enthusiasm for the CBDC. The nation’s largest banking association has called on the Central Bank to decelerate the pilot’s pace. Moreover, two significant Russian banks, Sberbank and Tinkoff, withdrew from the pilot program just before its launch. It remains uncertain whether they will rejoin at a later stage or opt to engage once legally obligated to process CBDC transactions.
Earlier this year, experts estimated that if the Central Bank were to launch a CBDC, commercial banks in Russia could potentially face annual losses of $684 million.