The blockchain that will help to re-elect Putin. Who bought the Russian branch of Waves Enterprise

A former FSB (ex-KGB) officer bought the Russian branch of Waves Enterprise crypto company. Oleg Deripaska, a sanctioned oligarch, could be behind the deal.

“Even poor Salvador realised the importance of digital currencies and adopted bitcoin as a legal tender”, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska wrote in 2021 thus complaining that it was prohibited to use cryptocurrencies for buying goods or services in Russia. 

Since 2018, Deripaska has been under US sanctions for election meddling. In 2022 he was put in the EU sanctions list together with dozens Russian oligarchs as part of sanction pressure on Russia for the full-scale invasion in Ukraine.

Deripaska, owner of one of the biggest aluminium companies in the world, seemed to suffer from the US sanctions. He tried to sue the US government and at the same time to evade sanctions using help from the former head of counterintelligence in the FBI New York City field office.

Being under sanctions, Deripaska regarded cryptocurrency as a mechanism to avoid any financial restrictions. “Cryptocurrency is a hard way to financial sovereignty of Russia”, he wrote in 2021 in his Telegram-channel.

As I found out, in 2022 he presumably bought a Russian branch of Waves Enterprise that was part of the leading Russian blockchain company that launched the Waves coin with a current market cap of about $230 mln. The Russian Waves Enterprise (now Web3 Tech) will help Putin to re-elect in 2024.

The pocket company of Russian “shoulder straps”

Waves was founded by a Russian-Ukrainian entrepreneur Sasha Ivanov. He was born in Ukraine, then studied physics at Moscow University and stayed in Russia. In 2017 he raised $17 mln in ICO for his blockchain-platform Waves. The platform offered purpose-designed tools to facilitate the process of using blockchain in business.

Waves Enterprise soon became popular among Russian state companies and structures. Rosseti (state electricity company) used Waves-platform for its consumption accounting, Federal Tax Service — for their system of business support.

Sasha Ivanov at the beggining of 2023 (Ivanov’s Twitter)

But the most important state affiliated project was made for Rostelecom (state telecom company). The Waves platform was put into the basis of the e-vote system. It was first tested in 2021 on parliament elections in several regions, but the wide usage is planned for 2024 when the next presidential elections are  going to take place. Putin is believed to go on re-election, and rumours say that the Kremlin is going to make his result the highest in history of Putin’s re-elections.

The main concern about this e-vote system is that the blockchain is controlled by the state, so the decentralisation is absolutely formal.

“The crypto world regarded Waves as a pocket company of Russian “shoulder straps”, one Russian crypto entrepreneur told me. “Should straps” is a slang word for state security services.

After the full-scale war started in February, 2022, the Waves founder Sasha Ivanov wrote in his Twitter “I am from Zaporozhye, Ukraine” and posted a picture “Peace, please”. Two months later he replied to this tweet with the word “Zaporizhya” — this is how the name of his native city is spelled and written in Ukrainian.

At the same time he sold shares in all his Russian companies, as many Western companies did with their Russian business in those times. But the most interesting thing here is who bought the Russian branch of Waves Enterprise.

FSB officer and Deripaska’s manager

“These days we have sent documents to FSB to receive a certificate on our blockchain-platform”, Artem Kalikhov, the director of the ex Russian branch of Waves Enterprise, said at one crypto conference in Moscow at the end of 2022.

FSB is a KGB successor and the main symbol of those “shoulder straps” that are trying to control everything in Russia.

Artem Kalikhov (Web3 Tech YouTube channel)

At the same conference Kalikhov announced that Waves Enterprise divided its business into two parts — Russian and global ones. The Russian part works under the name Web3 Tech.

Waves Enterprise had two legal entities in Russia, both owned by Sasha Ivanov. Their revenue in 2021 was $6,1 mln. At the beginning of April, 2022 Sasha was replaced with Igor Kaigorodov — 48 years old man from Izhevsk, a city in the Ural region, 1000 km east from Moscow.

Kaigorodov is not known in the crypto world at all. He started his career at FSB — in the 2000s he was at the head of one FSB departments in Izhevsk. In the 2010s he seems to have left that job, but in Russia we say that “there are no ex FSB officers”. It means that sometimes they either continue to work at FSB secretly or keep close contacts with his former colleagues. Kaigorodov had a family business in Izhevsk and worked first at Rosneft (Russian state oil company) and in previous several years — at Rusal, the head company in Deripaska’s aluminium empire.

There are a lot of signs that Kaigorodov is a nominal shareholder, or, using a crypto language, a drop. But who might be behind him? I think that it could be Oleg Deripaska, although Rusal was one of the Waves Enterprise clients in creating a blockchain-platform.

Why Deripaska could byu Russian Waves Enterprise

It’s time to clarify a couple things about the #Waves ecosystem and my involvement  in it. Waves has become a well decentralized ecosystem of independent projects, with their own roadmaps. I am not a beneficiary of any projects on Waves, being only an advisor to some of them”.

This is what Sasha Ivanov wrote on his Twitter at the end of February. Several days before this tweet was written I had sent questions about the deal between Ivanov and Deripaska’s people to all sides of it — to “Rusal" and Web3 Tech (the brand of the ex Russian branch of Waves Enterpise). His tweet sounded like an answer that there will be no answer. Deripaska’s figure is too toxic to have any public business with. Especially in a time when Sasha Ivanov is being asked what happened with his USDN stablecoin: in February Waves team was accused of dumping its stablecoin to top-up the Waves crypto exchange.

But when I published this story in Russian on 8th of April, Sasha wrote to me that had Kaigorodov worked for Web3 Tech since 2018 as a law counselor. I do not see it in the documents I obtained at all, but I cannot check everything. Ivanov also noticed that he handed over his shares, but did not sold them, and stated that Rusal has nothing in common with the deal.

Rusal in an answer sent after the the Russian version of this story was rolled out denied that Deripaska was behind the deal.

Sayanogorsk aluminium smelter in Siberia, part of Deripaska’s empire

But if it was Deripaska, how might he use the ex Russian branch of Waves Enterprise? The team could be involved in his crypto projects, head of the Russian Transparency Ilya Shumanov told me. Deripaska is believed to have mining farms on his Siberian industrial sites. But one Russian entrepreneur thinks that Deripaska possibly does not know how to use the ex Russian branch of Waves Enterprise— he bought it because everybody is going into crypto.

In any case it will be his platform that will help Putin to re-elect next year.

UPD. At 10 pm, on 8th of April, the name of the company was specified (Waves Enterprise)