John Howell & Co

Specialist international legal advice

Russia – Business & Corruption

21 February 2010
This content is archived.

For more up-to-date information, please see Guides Global
This content is archived. For more up-to-date information, please see Guides Global

President Dmitri A. Medvedev fired two top Interior Ministry officials on Thursday and said he would eliminate thousands of ministry jobs in an effort to reform a police force widely criticized for corruption and abuse. He said some 15,000 cases of police corruption were logged last year, which was “just the tip of the iceberg.” He dismissed 15 generals, including 10 regional police chiefs, and told police officials that he wanted the ministry cut in half, to about 10,000 employees.


We do very little business in Russia and almost every deal our clients have been involved in seems to hit all sorts of problems, so I am, perhaps, a little skewed in my overview of the country.

I still think it’s a scary place to do business – for a whole variety of reasons from the script to the weather.

However, it is quite clear that there is a monster tussle going on between the ‘ordinary’ Russians that I meet and those in authority.

The people I meet tend to be highly educated and entrepreneurial businessmen. They tend to be in their thirties or early forties and are quite open about the fact that they find many aspects of their system frustrating. They are not gangsters. They may be a little cavalier about various issues from health and safety (Hurrah! I hear you say) to the payment of taxes, but they are people you can do business with.

Then you hit the brick wall of bureaucracy!

Does this story suggest that, at last something is to be done? Or is it just another PR exercise, to conceal the fact that – at its upper levels – nor much has changed in the attitude of the administration since the 1960s?

One thing is crystal clear. If you are thinking of doing business in Russia, you need a good plan and good connections.