As a former Putin supporter and executive at Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa Group, and now as chief fundraiser for anti-corruption and opposition figure Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Ashurkov has a unique perspective on two very divergent views of Russia’s business climate. He spoke to the Moscow Times about his dismissal from Alfa (a result of the company seeing him as a ‘political risk’) and his decision to choose politics over business. Ashurkov’s position on Russian investment is particularly clear; he displays an almost idealistically positive view of its potential for investors and is straightforward about the perceived obstacles. He argues that ‘the smartest businessmen’ would naturally want to support the Foundation for Fighting Corruption, knowing that a corruption-free market would generate profit and stability.
The unstable political situation is already shortening the investment horizon. There is so much money to be made in Russia if it were a level playing field. But people don’t invest with a long horizon. That affects returns. And Russian businessmen, when they interact with foreign partners, are becoming stigmatized even if they do not participate in high-level corruption or are not cronies of the Putin regime. When you say you are Russian, you carry with yourself all the weight of the image of Russia, which is perceived as corrupt and, in some cases, as a failed state.
Read the full interview for his views on why he no longer supports Vladimir Putin, the importance of mass demonstrations, and his advice for foreign investors.