Russian central bank officials indicate that a digital ruble will launch in 2023

In a virtual press conference Thursday, senior leaders from Russia's central bank provided key details about plans to release a central bank digital currency (CBDC). 

Deputy governor Alexei Zabotkin and first deputy governor Olga Skorobogatova disclosed how, based on the current timeline, a full launch could take place in 2023. 

The announcement today builds on what was previously known for the Russian central bank’s plan to roll out the digital ruble. As The Block previously reported, the bank intended to implement digital ruble infrastructure by the end of 2021 and test digital ruble prototypes by 2022. Now, it seems Russia’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) will become a reality in two years. 

Some of the operational specifics of how a digital ruble would work were also discussed during the event.

For example, the central bank will endeavor to curb non-cash transactions in order to create a smoother transition to the digital ruble. Narrowing non-cash transactions will hopefully offset liquidity shortages when the digital ruble rolls out, Zabotkin said. 

The CBDC will also have a two-tiered system, akin to China’s digital yuan, wherein the central bank distributes the CBDC to third-party firms like commercial banks that then distribute the CBDC to users.

Olga Skorobogatova, a Bank of Russia board member, said in the conference today that 73% of transactions in Russia have gone digital — a shift from Russia’s cash-only world from several years prior.

“A digital ruble functions as a third form of money. Why a third form? We have cash, we have non-cash, and a digital ruble will look like a token of the ruble, which incorporates the properties of cash and non-cash,” Skorobogatova said.