Lyudmyla Kozlovska, President of the Open Dialogue Foundation (ODF), participated in the Bitcoin Amsterdam Conference, which took place from 12 to 14 October 2023. During the panel discussion at the conference Bitcoin is borderless, she shared her story of how Bitcoin allowed her to fight for human rights, help Ukraine during the war, and deal with financial exclusion, which affected ODF.
The panel discussion was moderated by Obi Nwosu, former CEO of Coinfloor, a regulated Bitcoin exchange in the UK and Europe. Other panellists included Yaroslav Likhachevskyi, co-founder of the New Belarus platform and the Bysol Foundation, Anna Chekhovich, CFO of the Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) from Russia, and Bota Jardemalie, lawyer and defender of human rights from Kazakhstan.
The ODF President, who opened the panel discussion, spoke about the cooperation of the governments of Poland, Kazakhstan, and Moldova during the rule of Vladimir Plahotniuc, aimed at discrediting her and ODF, and at stripping away the tools used to fight for human rights and the rule of law in states with a façade of democracy. With ODF tackling financial exclusion as a result, Bitcoin became the solution:
“In my case, Bitcoin is used to save lives in Ukraine, especially after the Russian invasion in February 2022, as we were able to send 100 bulletproof vests and helmets and hundreds of medical kits to the Ukrainians on the very second day. All this was possible because we were capable of fundraising thanks to Bitcoin. For us, it’s not just a currency, but a tool that helps to save lives. And I am grateful to everyone who made this possible,” Lyudmyla Kozlovska emphasised.
Yaroslav Likhachevskyi, who since the outbreak of anti-government and anti-presidential protests in Belarus in 2020 began to build digital tools with other activists to support civil society and the democratisation of the country, also shared his story:
“In collaboration with the Belarusian pro-democracy movement, we have embarked on a mission to create a Belarusian economy in exile with the next goal of establishing a democratic government in Belarus. Bitcoin is specifically being used to deliver humanitarian aid to Belarus and support pro-democracy and anti-Russian activists on the ground. Digital Belarus is a platform that helps build connections and find sponsors for our initiatives. At the time, fundraisers for the election campaign and collections in support of those who suffered under the regime of Alexander Lukashenko appeared on the platform,” he said.
Anna Chekhovich, financial director of the Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), then addressed the audience. FBK, targeted by the Putin regime, has gradually lost access to financial institutions, and has therefore been using Bitcoin since 2015 to help overcome financial exclusion and repression. At that time, the Russian government began blocking the bank accounts of various foundations, even those very loosely linked to FBK. Alexey Navalny and his family also had their personal accounts frozen, as did many people who worked on his foundation’s team. Bitcoin gave them a financial tool beyond the reach of Vladimir Putin’s regime.
Kazakhstani lawyer and human rights defender Bota Jardemalie, who was granted political asylum in Belgium in 2013 due to the extraordinary risk of repression by Kazakhstan for her legal work against the regime, also shared her story:
“For years, I was persecuted by my country, Kazakhstan, for my work as a lawyer on behalf of the political victims of the regime there. I provided advice and support to members of the democratic opposition, political activists, and Kazakhstan’s independent media. Despite political asylum, I was threatened even in Belgium. At Kazakhstan’s request, in 2013, INTERPOL issued a Red Notice to arrest me on fabricated charges of embezzlement at the BTA bank in Kazakhstan. INTERPOL later cancelled this Red Notice for non-compliance with the rules against political fraud. The Kazakhstani regime tried twice to extradite me from Belgium without success. Belgium rejected these extradition requests. Kazakhstan went to great lengths to prevent me from doing my job.”
The Kazakhstani regime is now persecuting Jardemalie for allegedly laundering money on Belgian territory, abusing AML/CFT laws, and thus weaponizing them as another tool of transnational repression.
Therefore, as Lyudmyla Kozlovska stressed, AML/CFT regulation is critical, as activists are demanding significant changes in this sphere: “We have contacted more than 100 regulators across Europe, explaining that we use Bitcoin for humanitarian and human rights purposes and we need a “Bank of Last Resort”. All of this means that our activities are legal. If you look at the provisions of the adopted report on AML/CFT legislation, you can see that NGOs, activists and all crypto users will have a “Bank of Last Resort”.
We invite you to watch the entire discussion panel:
- BTC Coalition: summary of works 2022-2023 (November 28, 2023)
- Joint submission of the civil society coalition: Tools to prevent abuse of FATF anti-money laundering/financing of terrorism rules and address transnational repression (November 27, 2023)
- Bitcoin’s role in Guatemala’s Digitally Safeguarded Democracy (November 10, 2023)
- How Bitcoin became a tool for NGOs — an interview with Lyudmyla Kozlovska (October 6, 2023)
- Showing Humanitarian Face of Bitcoin at Central Bankers’ Forum (June 13, 2023)
- Italian legislators: stop and prevent the abuse of AML/CFT laws by dictators (April 19, 2023)
Cover photo: Bitcoin Magazine/YouTube