Today in Russian Business – Oct 5, 2011

The showdown between Roman Abramovich and Boris Berezovsky in London’s High Court has put a spotlight on the workings of the dubious world of business dealings in 1990s Russia.  Abramovich ‘s defence lawyer apparently painted a scene of legal nihilism and rampant graft.  The QC described Berezovsky as a ‘power broker’, to whom Abramovich’s businesses paid large sums for patronage.  The Chelsea FC owner’s lawyer reportedly claims that since Berezovsky’s contribution to  Sibneft was a matter of political patronage, his claims to financial compensation are unfounded.  In another battle between business heavyweights, two of Russia’s most powerful oligarchs, steel magnate Vladimir Lisin and oil tycoon Gennady Timchenko, will compete with each other in a multi-billion dollar auction for state-owned rail group Freight One.  Following meetings in Washington, Russia’s first deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov has suggested that a breakthrough is nearing on Russia’s accession to the WTO.  U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns has acknowledged that the US would benefit greatly from Russian accession as it would open new markets for American exporters.   Shuvalov is also in cognizance of the trading benefits, says Bloomberg.  Dozens of would-be homeowners have picketed the regional government in the east Siberian city of Irkutsk to demand their overdue apartments, which were due for completion three years ago.  Anatoly Chubais has introduced Vladimir Putin to Rusnano’s new tablet, which it hopes will rival the Ipad.  Vitaly Nesis, the head of precious metals group Polymetal, has launched a diatribe against Russian business culture which he views as ‘adolescent.’   The FT wonders what Kazakhstan stands to gain from its customs union with Belarus and Russia.   A market ten times as large is the answer –  but at what political price?