Russian banks MTS and PSB have initiated the testing phase for the digital ruble, with selected “entrepreneurs” using the CBDC for payments. Russia’s Central Bank has accelerated its CBDC project recently and aims for a nationwide rollout between 2025 and 2027. MTS, along with VTB Bank and PSB, reported that their customers and employees have conducted real-world transactions with the digital coin following the commencement of advanced pilots last week.
MTS’s payment technology chief, Igor Chuchkin, expressed his enthusiasm about participating in the digital ruble pilot, stating that the bank plans to explore additional digital ruble-related services for customers based on their initial experiences during the pilot phase.
Meanwhile, PSB revealed details of a real-world digital ruble transaction carried out on its platform. The bank allowed one of its clients, an entrepreneur in the online education sector, to open a digital wallet and successfully make a payment for services using an app-generated QR code. The client was also able to exchange digital rubles for conventional rubles and vice versa through the PSB mobile app, conducting a business-to-customer transaction in digital rubles.
The Central Bank has set transaction fees for the digital ruble at 0.3%, although peer-to-peer transactions can be made free of charge. In addition to MTS and PSB, 11 other Russian banks are currently testing the CBDC with a select group of clients in various cities nationwide. The Central Bank has confirmed that 16 additional banks, including several regional ones, are prepared to join the pilot swiftly.
However, not all of the country’s largest banks share the same enthusiasm for the CBDC. The nation’s largest banking association has called on the Central Bank to slow down the pace of the pilot phase. Moreover, two Russian megabanks, Sberbank and Tinkoff, withdrew from the pilot program at the last minute. It remains unclear whether they will join the pilot at a later stage or await legal obligations to process CBDC transactions.
Earlier this year, experts warned that commercial banks could face an annual loss of $684 million if the Central Bank introduced a CBDC.