Michael Chobanian is considered the “godfather of cryptocurrencies” in Ukraine. The son of a miner becomes one of the first Ukrainian Bitcoin miners, in 2015 he founded the country’s first crypto exchange Kuna and set up the first Bitcoin ATM.
Today, the 38-year-old leads the Ukrainian government’s official crypto fundraising campaign. Over $100 million in cryptocurrencies are raised in March. The state uses it to buy bulletproof vests and medicines to supply the troops and the population in the war against Russia.
In the next issue of BTC-ECHO magazine, you will read the whole story of the man’s turbulent life who went from public enemy during the war to become a crypto warrior of Ukraine.
For the interview, Michael Chobanian responded via voicemail on Telegram.
BTC-ECHO: In your country of origin, there is war, danger and insecurity. You are currently flying around the world on behalf of the Ukrainian government, to peaceful countries. Do you have trouble reconciling these two realities?
Michel Chobanian: For me, this is an unreal situation. Last week I was in Paris, now I’m in Asia. I live on the plane most of the time. Sometimes I briefly forget that a disaster is happening in my home country. Then I read the news and immediately realized how bad it was.
My family and I fled the day the war started. If I hear a big bang or cicadas in the night today, I jump. I think then of the anti-aircraft alarm and the bombs that woke us up that morning in kyiv. My nervous system hasn’t recovered yet.
But I’m lucky. Many Ukrainians don’t even have a roof over their heads anymore. It’s awful. I have to help my country. It is my duty.
BTC-ECHO: You discovered Bitcoin in 2011 and made cryptocurrency your full-time job two years later. How did it go? What did your friends and family think?
Michel Chobanian: There is an irony in our family history. My father worked all his life as a coal miner, just like his father before him. Later, I mined bitcoin in his office.
When I first heard about Bitcoin in 2011, I didn’t believe in its value. This only changed during the Cyprus banking crisis two years later. Buying Bitcoin was the only way people could save their fortunes from the government.
I thought: if bitcoin can protect you from government tyranny, I should study it. And I did, almost a year and a half. It was overwhelming.
BTC-ECHO: You are now leading the official crypto fundraising campaign in Ukraine. How has this changed the view of cryptocurrencies there?
Michel Chobanian: The campaign has saved many lives. A bitcoin transaction takes fifteen minutes, sending money from abroad via SWIFT takes two or more days. Members of the military and government now understand: crypto has value for them – and for our country.
The National Bank of Ukraine is still fighting against crypto. But the war turned most skeptics into supporters. Crypto will stay. It’s common now. This is perhaps the only positive thing about this war.
The simplified cryptocurrency tax return
In the BTC-ECHO guide, we show you the best tools to create crypto tax returns automatically and easily.
To the guide