Pressure from the Kremlin and sanctions from the West have forced Russian news outlet Meduza to increasingly rely on cryptocurrency donations to fund its independent journalism. As the restrictions imposed over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine have prevented its Russian readers from contributing in fiat currency, the Riga-based website now accepts several digital coins.
The small Baltic nation of around 2 million, which has a large Russian speaking minority, has become a hub for exiled Russian media. Western sanctions, however, do not allow Meduza’s 30,000 Russian readers who supported it before the conflict to send funds through Stripe, after the payment processor suspended services in the Russian Federation to comply with the penalties.
The war and the sanctions have forced Meduza to turn to its international audience and ask for financial help in U.S. dollars, euros, or cryptocurrency. It now accepts card payments, bank wires, Paypal transfers, and multiple coins including bitcoin (BTC), ether (ETH), the stablecoin tether (USDT), and the privacy-oriented monero (XMR). The report notes that the provided BTC and ETH wallets have already accumulated about $230,000 worth of cryptocurrency.
Commenting on the situation, the news portal’s editor-in-chief Ivan Kolpakov pointed out that Meduza is currently raising only around half of what it needs to develop. While declining to reveal the total amount of donations, he noted that the website is soliciting crypto and relying entirely on money from foreigners for the first time and stated:
We couldn’t predict that the sanctions of Western governments will come first and destroy our crowdfunding.
Independent Russian media outlets have faced unprecedented pressure from authorities in Moscow and as a result some have shut down, while others have been blocked by the Russian state. The Novaya Gazeta newspaper suspended publication in March after receiving warnings about its coverage, and the Ekho Moskvy radio station had its FM frequency handed over to the state-run Sputnik.
Meduza, which was founded in the Latvian capital after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, during another media crackdown, was labeled last year a “foreign agent” by the Russian government. The designation, which targets Russian media receiving funding from abroad, had already hurt its advertising revenue before the new sanctions effectively ended Russian donations.
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