The Central Bank of Russia only began in earnest to plan the introduction of a digital currency last year, but the basic design of the digital ruble was already set forth in a plan released by the CBR last April. The digital ruble, which will be issued by the central bank, will serve the same function as cash, but will require households to access their digital rubles using applications provided by commercial banks.
Using their bank-issued app, customers would be able to make digital ruble transactions even offline. It is important to note that the customer’s digital rubles in the proposed system are not liabilities of the commercial banks but the CBR. When the customer wants to transfer assets from her bank account to her digital wallet, the bank transfers the desired amount from the account to the wallet. The commercial bank then reports the transaction to the central bank, which then shifts on the liabilities side of its balance sheet the desired amount of digital rubles from the commercial bank’s digital wallet to the private customer’s wallet. The total amount of digital rubles remains be unchanged. Payments with digital rubles could also be transferred via commercial-bank app, and the CBR would transfer then digital rubles between customer digital wallets.
In summer 2021, the CBR launched pilot testing of the digital ruble with twelve commercial banks. The pilot tests should establish that commercial bank apps integrate seamlessly and securely with the central bank’s systems in transferring digital rubles between wallets. If successful, the pilot programme would be extended in January 2022 to other banks. No date has been set for the official introduction of digital rubles in regular use.