Today in Russian Business – Feb 17, 2012

Skolkovo director Viktor Vekselberg is in the UK, attempting to encourage British companies to participate in what has been deemed Russia’s answer to Silicon Valley.  In an interview with the BBC’s Today program, fielding questions about the rule of law, he admits that Russia is not a democracy, as of yet.  In an attempt to win over voters, Vladimir Putin has ordered a clean-up of corruption-riddled state corporations, but ‘the problem is that all these state companies are very well-connected, and not well controlled‘ says Elena Panfilova of Transparency International.  Nearly 400 Russian bailiffs were brought to justice in 2011 mostly for bribes and fraud, reports ITAR-TASS, and some 4% of GDP was illegally withdrawn from the Russian economy last year by money laundering in Russia and abroad.  Moscow apparently hopes to use strategic investment in Afghanistan’s infrastructure to bring about political stability.  According to Reuters, Iran bought almost half a million tonnes of wheat this week from Russia as it attempts to evade Western sanctions.  Rostelecom, Russia’s primary fixed-line phone operator plans to increase its stake in pay television operator National Telecommunications to a conclusive 100%.