Russians Flocked to Tether During Wagner Rebellion

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  • The volume of trade between the Russian rouble and USDT stablecoin surged during the Wagner Group’s insurrection attempt last month
  • Trading volumes jumped 277% on the day the rebellion was announced 
  • Russians withdrew over $1 billion from local banks amid the rouble’s 30% loss in value since December

Russians flocked to Tether’s USDT stablecoin during the Wagner group’s rebellion last month in order to insulate themselves from the falling value of the Russian rouble. Data from the Financial Times shows that trading volume on the pair shot up 277% in just 24 hours after the group announced its temporary U-turn, with volume spiking again days, potentially as buyers sold their holdings back again. Some $1 billion was withdrawn from local banks during the crisis, according to the country’s central bank.

Trading Volume Spiked by 277%

Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin announced the rebellion against his Russian paymasters on June 24, and it didn’t take long for trading volumes to reflect the lack of confidence in the Russian regime: trading between the rouble and USDT spiked to $14.7 million in just 24 hours, a 277% increase from the previous day’s $3.9 million.

However, volumes dropped back to below $3 million the following day when Prigozhin ordered his forces to halt. Trading spiked again in the first week of July, reaching $10.5 million, potentially as USDT buyers switched back as the coup dissipated and Prigozhin announced a restoration to order.

Rouble Continues to Suffer

The surge in trading on June 24 marked the highest point between the rouble and USDT since July 2022 when volumes exceeded $21 million. In the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine in February last year, trading volume also surged to $37.9 million in the immediate weeks following the event.

The surge in crypto trading coincided with Russians withdrawing over $1 billion from local banks during the crisis. The rouble continues to weaken against the dollar, losing approximately a third of its value since December. Its value reached over 90Rbs per U.S. dollar this month, the lowest point since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.