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Old 19th March 2015, 01:56
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Theft of Ukraine’s ‘Golden Loaf’ Reflects the Revolution’s Failings
TIME MAGAZINE 5:33 PM ET 3/18/2015

The disappearance of a symbol of the revolution comes as President Poroshenko's approval rating crumbles

When revolutionaries stormed the mansion of Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych one year ago, a few of them ran up the winding staircase to the master bathroom, expecting to find the golden toilet that was rumored to be in the house. Instead, as they rifled through the gaudy rooms that day, they found something better, or at least more bizarre: a golden loaf of bread, weighing about two kilograms, that a prominent businessman had given the President as a gift in an elaborate wooden box.

Of all the pieces of cartoonish opulence found on the palace grounds – including a stuffed lion, a golf course, a private zoo and a floating restaurant in the shape of a pirate ship – the golden loaf became the most famous token of the corruption that fueled the rebellion. In the months that followed, key chains and refrigerator magnets of the loaf were sold on Kiev’s Independent Square as mementoes of the revolution and its promise to make politicians stop stealing from the people. But on Tuesday, March 17, its symbolism came full circle when Ukraine’s new government announced that the loaf had itself been stolen.

“It turns out that the location of the famous golden loaf is unknown,” said Dmitri Dobrodomov, chairman of the committee in charge of combating corruption in Ukraine’s post-revolutionary parliament. “In essence, it was stolen. The question is: by whom?” said the lawmaker, an ally of Ukraine’s new President Petro Poroshenko.

It was another embarrassing setback for Poroshenko’s government, which has struggled to keep the pledges of the revolution over the past year as Ukraine fights a war with Russia’s proxy militias in its eastern regions. “With one hand we’re firing back at the aggressor, with the other we’re speeding up reforms,” Poroshenko said in a speech last month, on the one-year anniversary of the uprising that brought him to power. “Once we stop the war,” Poroshenko assured the nation, “it’ll just take a few years before everyone notices how Ukraine is changing.”

But Ukrainians are getting impatient. At the start of February, Poroshenko’s approval ratings dropped below 50% for the first time since he took office in June, according to a nationwide poll conducted by the Research & Branding Group, a leading Ukrainian pollster. More alarming for his government, nearly half of respondents in the survey (46%) said the revolution had failed to meet its goals of uprooting corruption. One in five said they were prepared to take part in another uprising to finish the work of the last one. “This is an incredibly huge number,” says Evgeny Kopatko, the director of the polling agency. “It shows that the protest potential is still extremely high. People just don’t see the changes that they were expecting.”

That is especially true when it comes to graft. More than a year since the uprising, not one senior official from the Yanukovych government has stood trial for corruption. The revolution has failed to improve Ukraine’s standing in Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index released in December; out of 175 countries, Ukraine stood in 142nd place, still the most corrupt in Europe and still lagging behind Russia, which took the 136th slot.

Poroshenko’s reluctance to crack down on Ukraine’s political elites is easily understood. During the past year of war in Ukraine, he has often relied on the wealth and influence of the country’s oligarchs, who have helped bankroll the military forces that are fighting against separatist rebels along the border with Russia. Antagonizing these oligarchs with a far-reaching crackdown on corruption could risk a mutiny among them, which is the last thing Poroshenko needs.

“There is a great disappointment in this sense,” says Alyona Getmanchuk, the director of the Institute of World Policy, a Kiev-based think tank. “People see that the war is being used as an excuse to delay various reforms,” she says. “And it occurs to people that [the government] may even be interested in having this conflict to delay the war against corruption.”

But as the fighting eases and the ceasefire takes hold in eastern Ukraine, Poroshenko will have to turn his focus back toward the promises of the uprising he helped to lead. Yanukovych’s abandoned palace might be a place to start. Although the new government had planned to turn it into a “museum of corruption,” the property has instead become a monument to the revolution’s unfinished business. “It’s all still up in the air,” says Petro Oleynik, the former revolutionary who has been living at the palace for more than a year, serving as a kind of unofficial groundskeeper. “Other than Yanukovych this place doesn’t belong to anyone, because no one has come here to claim it. Only the marauders still come here and steal things.”

In late February, when TIME visited the property, the golden loaf was still prominently displayed in a window, perched alongside a mocking effigy of Yanukovych that sat on the sill. Above it was a sign offering tours of the mansion for 200 hryvnia per person, about $7 at the current exchange rate but prohibitively expensive for most Ukrainians. Oleynik said the profit from these tours goes toward maintaining the house, as does the money from the other businesses he is running on the property, such as the sale of milk from Yanukovych’s cows.

But when TIME called him to inquire about the loaf on Tuesday, Oleynik replied that he was busy and hung up the phone. The theft, in any case, would likely not have surprised him. On a recent Saturday, he showed a French family around the property, pointing at various items in the gilded bathrooms, private cinema and karaoke room and stating their supposed prices. Lebanese cedar for the ceiling: $12 million. A shiny trash can near the sink: $700. “It’s another world,” said one of the awestruck tourists.

Many of the smaller items, Oleynik explained, had already been stolen as souvenirs, a practice he seemed to feel was unavoidable. “Sometimes it’s better to look the other way even when someone is stealing,” he said, “because if you anger them, they’ll return and start breaking things.” Ukraine's 'Golden Loaf' Stolen from Viktor Yanukovych Palace

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Old 22nd March 2015, 19:41
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Where Russian Tourists Will (And Won't) Go in 2015
Delphine d'Amora Mar. 22 2015 19:41

In any ordinary year, the resort towns of Spain, Greece and Italy would be looking ahead to a rising tide of Russians tourists and their typically lavish holiday spending.

But this is no ordinary year. A steep drop in oil prices have sent the ruble tumbling against the dollar and euro, raising the cost of foreign travel and cutting Russians' real wages by nearly 10 percent compared to 2014, according to February data from state statistics service Rosstat.

Travel to Europe has been one of the first luxuries to go. But surprisingly, the resorts of Turkey and Egypt stand to see business from Russia rise this year, as formerly spendthrift Russians trade down and choose cheap package holidays.

Foreign Travel Falls

Tourism out of Russia has fallen between 50 and 70 percent this year, said Irina Tyurina, spokeswoman for the Russian Tourism Industry Union. The flow of tourists across borders has been further hit by an unofficial ban on security and law enforcement officers traveling abroad, which was largely responsible for bankrupting nearly 30 Russian tour operators last year.

The downturn is bad news for tourism destinations in Europe and beyond. Even countries that traditionally draw just a trickle of Russian tourists could suffer, as shops, bars, spas and restaurants count on Russians' disproportionately large holiday spending.

"[Russian tourists] order, or used to order, a lot of extra services, they spend a lot in shops, bars and restaurants. If they go to a spa, they order everything, and may go nearly every day," Tyurina said.

Research done before the crisis showed Russians spending an average of 170 euros ($183) a day while on holiday in Croatia, said Ivor Vucelic, director of product, purchase, IT and marketing at the Russian branch of leading European travel group TUI. This was more than three times the spending of German tourists, who averaged 50 euros ($54) a day.

Europe Feels the Pinch

Russia's crisis is expected to hit European destinations the hardest. The ruble has fallen nearly 25 percent against the euro since this time last year, sending the cost of travel to Europe soaring, while EU sanctions against Moscow have left some Russians with a sour taste in their mouths.

The impact is already visible. In January, total Russian spending on tax-free purchases abroad fell 43 percent in Spain, 54 percent in Greece and 56 percent in Italy compared to the same period in 2014, according to tax refund company Global Blue.

These numbers reflect both the falling number of Russian tourists and a decrease in spending among those who do travel. Tour operators have also seen Russians tightening their purse strings: Revenues per Russian passenger have fallen 27 percent to an average of $720-$730, according to TUI's sources, Vucelic said.

Among EU countries, Greece, Spain and Italy have the most to lose. Greece boasted nearly 1 million Russian tourists in the first nine months of 2014, followed by Spain with 883,000 and Italy with 635,000, according to Russia's Federal Tourism Agency. Germany, France and the Czech Republic were close behind.

While these more expensive destinations have seen their numbers from Russia drop, cheaper destinations such as Bulgaria and Montenegro and budget properties in Greece are faring better in early bookings, Vucelic said.

One unexpected bright spot has been an increasing willingness on the part of European embassies to grant multi-entry visas in an apparent attempt to encourage Russian tourism to the EU.

"It's a paradoxical situation. On the one hand, relations with Europe are bad, and on the other, European countries are urging Russian tourists to come because they are losing money," Tyurina of the Russian Tourism Industry Union said.

Classic Hotspots Stay Strong

Turkey and Egypt would appear to have the most to lose from an economic crisis in Russia. Turkey led among foreign destinations with more than 3 million Russian tourists in the first nine months of 2014, followed by Egypt with nearly 2 million tourists, according to the Federal Tourism Agency.

But in fact, these destinations are actually rising in popularity, with up to 15 percent more Russian tourists this year than in 2014, said Dmitry Gorin, vice president of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia.

The secret to their success is twofold. For one thing, Turkey and Egypt have gone to great lengths and worked closely with Russian tour operators in an effort to maintain the influx of tourists. The Turkish government, for instance, has proposed giving tour operators subsidies of $6,000 for each flight from Russia to resorts in Turkey, Gorin said.

At the same time, these traditional holiday favorites appear to be benefiting from the very same economizing that has turned Russian tourists away from Europe. Rather than risking an accumulation of last-minute expenses, Russian consumers are choosing all-inclusive holidays, with food, excursions and even ice cream for the children all included in the package price.

And when it comes to all-inclusive holidays, "Turkey and Egypt are the kings," TUI's Vucelic said.
The Moscow Times - Breaking News, Business, Culture & Multimedia from Russia


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Old 3rd April 2015, 00:39
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What does the fascist conference in St. Petersburg tell us about contemporary Russia?
Anton Shekhovtsov 2015/04/03 • Politics EUROMAIDAN PRESS

On the 9th of May, Russia will plunge into ritualised mass celebrations to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the victory over fascism in the “Great Patriotic War”. At the same time, on the 22nd of March, a few weeks before the celebrations, a Russian party with a presumably patriotic name “Motherland” held the International Russian Conservative Forum (IRCF) that hosted over a dozen of notorious European and American fascists, white supremacists and anti-Semites.

To add injury to the apparent insult, the Motherland party held the IRCF in St. Petersburg that suffered, in 1941-1944, one of the longest sieges in the military history (Siege of Leningrad) that resulted in over a million casualties of civilians alone.

Is this (yet another) case of Russia’s ideological schizophrenia or something else?

“The fringe of the fringe”
When the international participants of the IRCF gathered in the Holiday Inn hotel, they were greeted by their Russian counterparts from various right-wing extremist groups, none of which, except for the Motherland party, has any political significance in Russia. The international guests matched them well. As one of the speakers, founder and editor of the racist American Renaissance website Jared Taylor, admitted himself, that was “a bizarre lineup”, “the fringe of the fringe”.

And, indeed, they were.

The bulk of the international part of the IRCF was represented by the Alliance for Peace and Freedom (APF), an umbrella movement that was established in Brussels in the building of the European Parliament in February 2015 and united fascist and neo-Nazi parties and smaller organisations from Italy (New Force), Germany (National Democratic Party of Germany), Sweden (Party of the Swedes), Greece (Golden Dawn), Spain (National Democracy), Belgium (Nation), and Denmark (Danish Party).

The chairman of the APF, Roberto Fiore, has almost forty years of experience of far right activism; he was briefly a MEP in 2008-2009, but in the most recent general election in Italy his party New Force obtained only 0.26% of the vote. The notorious Golden Dawn, which the Greek court may soon officially recognise as a criminal organisation, is arguably the most successful party in the APF, yet still it has limited impact on the Greek politics. The Belgian Kris Roman, whom the organisers proudly described as “chairman of the research centre ‘Euro-Russia’” is most likely the only member of this “research centre”. Nick Griffin, former leader of the British National Party who was expelled from this party in autumn 2014, represented the British Unity, a virtual party that largely exists on Facebook with four thousand “likes”.

The presentations of the participants of the IRCF were expectedly full of ridiculous conspiracy theories, racist rants, anti-gay drivels, illiberal ravings, and subservient praise of Putin’s Russia and the man himself. Some of the international participants obviously wanted to demonstrate their unshakeable loyalty to Putin’s regime and – who knows! – may be get some Russian money, following the success of the French National Front that secured a multi-million loan from a Russian bank in 2014.

Fat chance. Despite the widespread and sometimes justified assumptions that Putin’s Russia provides financial assistance to European far right parties, it does not throw money to anyone who supports the Russian foreign policy. The Kremlin favours those who have solid support in their respective societies. Like the French National Front that has won the second place in the recent regional elections.

Fifty shades of brown
The fringe nature of the event was defined not only by the credentials of the participants who were actually there, but also by those who were invited but refused to come or cancelled their participation.

The IRCF has almost a year-long history. Originally, the Motherland party invited all the “fifty shades of brown”: in addition to those who were present in St. Petersburg, the organisers invited comparatively more moderate far right parties such as the French National Front, Freedom Party of Austria, Hungarian Jobbik, Serbian Radical Party, and some others. They all refused, at different stages of the process, to come because they did not want to fraternise with blatant fascists and racists, as they feared that their participation might damage their image at home. The names of representatives of the Bulgarian Attack party and Italian Northern League that for some time cooperated with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi were still on the conference programme on the day of the event, but Attack’s Volen Siderov cancelled his visit in the nick of time, while Northern League’s Luca Bertoni left the forum – perhaps even appalled! – before his own presentation.

This is the first thing that we have learnt from the fascist event in St. Petersburg. Facing the political and economic backlash from the West for Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine, the Russian elites are desperate for any, even marginal, European and US support of the Kremlin’s policies. However, some of the Russian political elites reveal blatant ignorance of the differences between various forces even if they are evidently coming from one and the same broad far right political camp. These differences are too evident and appear to be the main reason why no far right group exists in the European Parliament despite the fact that there is a sufficient number of far right and Eurosceptic MEPs to form such a group.

Yet there are more important things than the Russian elites’ lack of expertise on their potential allies that we can learn from the event in St. Petersburg.

Russian doublespeak
In the large segment of the Russian public sphere, the meaning of the term “fascism” excessively used by the Kremlin and the Russian state-controlled mass media differs dramatically from its commonly accepted meaning in the West.

Many people in Russia have increasingly adopted the Soviet logic of the use of this term. For them, the meaning of “fascism” is defined by the same reason why Russia celebrates the victory in the so-called Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), rather than the Victory in Europe Day that commemorates the Second World War (1939-1945). Following the agreements made in the secret protocol complementing the 1939 Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact that implied the division of Poland, Romania, the Baltic States and Finland into the Nazi and Soviet “spheres of influence”, the Third Reich and the Soviet Union started the Second World War by invading Poland in September 1939. For the Soviet Union, this was not the beginning of the war – it only started when the Third Reich attacked the USSR in 1941. This is exactly when German fascism became a real danger to the Soviet Union, and it was the “Great Patriotic War” that provided a particular emotional interpretation of fascism as a first and foremost anti-communist or anti-Soviet ideology.

For many Russians, today’s meaning of “fascism” is similar: “fascists” are those who are perceived as enemies of Russia or as undermining the Russian sphere of influence. This is exactly why Moldovan troops were called “fascists” in 1992 when they tried, unsuccessfully, to regain control over Transnistria occupied by the Russian army. Some Russians applied the same term to former Georgian pro-Western president Mikheil Saakashvili, and, of course, the government in post-revolutionary Ukraine was named “Kyiv fascist junta” because it wanted to move Ukraine away from the Russian sphere of influence.

If the use of “fascism” is determined by the attitudes towards Russia and its geopolitical standing, so is the use of the term “anti-fascism”. “Anti-fascists” are all those who support Putin’s Russia or back up its geopolitical interests. A tweet posted (but later deleted) in the course of the event in St. Petersburg by Aleksey Zhuravlev, the leader of the Motherland party, is telling in this regard. He posted a photo of Udo Voigt, a high-ranking member of the National-Democratic Party of Germany, the largest neo-Nazi organisation in post-war Europe, and commented: “MEP Udo Voigt is an antifascist too!”. It is Voigt’s positive attitudes towards the Kremlin that make him an “anti-fascist” in Russia.

Confused elements of the left-wing movement in the West take well the use of the term “anti-fascism” by the Kremlin and the Russian state-controlled mass media. However, the Kremlin and its supporters cannot constantly call ultranationalists and anti-Semites “anti-fascists”.

The widespread word to describe right-wing extremists in the Russian context is “conservatives”. When the Motherland party first planned to hold the IRCF in March 2014, it was called the “Russian National Forum against Tolerance”. They later dropped the last part and kept only “Russian National Forum”. With the rise of Moscow’s media narrative about Ukrainian nationalism and Russia as a bastion of family and conservative values, the “National” in the name of the forum was replaced by “Conservative”. The dangerously multifaceted meaning of “conservatism” in Russia is also reflected, in particular, by Vkontakte, the most popular social networking website in Russia. In the “political views” drop-down menu, one cannot find “far right” or “fascist”, so people who actually hold these views select the “ultraconservative” option.

complete read: What does the fascist conference in St. Petersburg tell us about contemporary Russia? -Euromaidan Press |


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Old 18th July 2015, 17:06
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Russian holidays - Banned from foreign beaches
As in Soviet days, the state is making it harder for many to holiday abroad Jul 18th 2015 | MOSCOW | THE ECONOMIST

When the French Riviera is off limits, try the Russian one

IN COMMUNIST times a summer break usually meant a trip with workmates to a stony beach or a bracing mountainside—within the Soviet motherland. When the red flag came down, Russians flew off en masse on exotic forays to Turkey or Thailand. Now the pleasure of holidaying closer to home is perforce being rediscovered by an ever-growing category of citizens who, to use a very Soviet term, are nevyezdniye: forbidden, by virtue of their state employment or access to secrets, from going abroad. As the Kremlin’s extreme froideur with the West enters its second year, the number of nevyezdniye Russians may surpass 4m.

That is a change from the early years of Vladimir Putin’s presidency, when the means as well as the right to travel were hailed as benefits of his rule. In Soviet times travel abroad, usually in highly controlled groups, was rare. But after the Soviet Union fell in 1991, most Russians could freely leave, including officers in the army, police and intelligence services. Many opened bank accounts and bought property abroad. Foreign travel rocketed.

That began to change in 2010, says Andrei Soldatov, an investigative journalist, when America uncovered a network of Russian spies who had lived in America for years. That fiasco made the Kremlin nervous of what footloose, well-connected Russians might give away. The Russian state began to curb the right of those with state secrets to roam the world.

The ranks of Russia’s nevyezdniye swelled even more last year after Crimea was annexed and war broke out in eastern Ukraine. Russia’s foreign ministry warned that American agents were “hunting for Russian citizens”. It advised against travel to countries with extradition treaties with America. That put Europe off-limits. The same applied to Egypt and Turkey.

Then it became still harder for an array of state employees. At the interior ministry, workers at a certain level had to hand over their passports. A Communist member of parliament said all his colleagues should be barred from going abroad without special approval. News reports suggested that even railway workers were cancelling trips at the suggestion of higher-ups.

Police without security clearance are given a “recommendation” not to go abroad, says Mikhail Pashkin of Moscow’s police union. But there is talk of changing the contracts signed by all officers, even traffic cops, to oblige them to get permission for foreign trips. Mr Pashkin adds that other factors may be at work. The thinking, as he puts it, is that even if money is stolen, “let them spend it here and not there.”

Russian tour operators, already reeling from the weak rouble, have been hurt. “We underestimated how many [securocrats] there were,” says Irina Tyurina of Russia’s Tourism Industry Union. “But they want to have a vacation all the same.” So demand has risen for Russia’s few seaside resorts, such as Sochi, the site of the Winter Olympics in 2014, and Anapa on the Black Sea—and Crimea. Operators of package tours to Egypt and Turkey have begun organising similar trips to Sochi: charter flights, air-conditioned buses, all meals included. “If a person is used to package tours, he or she won’t be disappointed,” says Sergei Tolchin of NTK-Intourist. “It’s the same model, only if the beaches in Turkey are sandy, then in Sochi there are pebbles.”
Banned from foreign beaches | The Economist

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Old 3rd August 2015, 02:16
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Secretive store selling 'crazy stuff' to wealthy
Aug. 2, 2015, 1:30 p.m. | People — by Veronika Melkozerova

Boarded-up windows. A rough metal door streaked with black paint, and with a vision panel. Entry by password only.

Gara, a store opened by the eccentric Kyiv millionaire property developer Garik Korogodsky, looks more like some post-apocalyptic shelter than an exclusive boutique – at least on the outside.

Once inside however, customers see why Gara is known as the store for crazy stuff: It only stocks strange and costly items from all over the world, including luxurious eyeglasses, weird handbags, freaky masks, jewelry, and more. Most of the items look like accessories Willy Wonka might choose, or something worn by one of the characters in “Alice in Wonderland.”

Prices range from a modest Hr 1,500 to an extravagant Hr 500,000 for a pair of unique silver eyeglasses.

Entry to the store is by appointment only, via a sign-up page on the store’s website, Gara, where potential customers choose a date and time for their visit. Exactly an hour before the appointed time, clients are sent a password by SMS. Only then are they able to enter.

“We’re closed not because we’re arrogant or selective,” says Rita Godlevska, the director of Gara. “Vice versa, we’ve shut our doors because we want every client to feel special. This way our staff can pay them the maximum attention.”

The customer is allowed to bring along a couple of friends for coffee and cookies, while trying on quirky accessories and taking photos.

And the goods in Gara are well worth a photo. The shop’s main focus is weird glasses – which comes as no surprise, since its owner Korogodsky, one of Ukraine’s richest people, with a current fortune estimated at $60 million, is known for his extravagant style and passion for odd pairs of spectacles.

For those who share this passion – and have quite a bit of money to spend – the store offers glasses with temples made in the shape of a woman’s legs (Hr 12,000), glasses made of buffalo horn (Hr 8,000), and a pair with the glass replaced by two large crystals, with pink feathers around them (Hr 6,000).

Korogodsky himself has his eye on a pair that costs Hr 400,000, but says he’s hesitating to buy them.

“When you can afford a lot it is hard to keep yourself from temptation,” he says as he tries on his dream glasses in the store.

Among the 60 brands of accessories, which have been carefully selected by Korogodsky’s wife Anna Korogodska and store manager Godlevska, there are only two from Ukrainian designers. One is Kharkiv mask designer Bob Basset, who creates futuristic and steam punk masks for famous fashion houses like Givenchy. The other is Kostyantyn Kofta, a designer of naturalistic and creepy leather bags, which look like human spines or screaming faces. In Ukraine one can buy these brands only in Gara, according to Godlevska.

“Kofta once tried to sell his works in Kyiv,” she says, “but he found that Ukrainian customers weren’t ready for his controversial art.”

Gara has been operating since March and is yet to turn a profit – not that the owner seems to mind, however.

“We opened the store just for fun,” says Korogodsky. “But you know what? People actually come in and buy stuff.” Secretive store selling 'crazy stuff' to wealthy

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Old 25th November 2016, 13:50
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Focus on Europe
Putin's plans to tax the Garazhniki (VIDEO)

An estimated 30 million Russians work off the books. Known as "Garazhniki," they make furniture, fix cars and do other jobs. Now, after two years of recession, President Putin hopes to legalize them and collect taxes. But many think they'll resist.

Putin′s plans to tax the Garazhniki | All media content | DW.COM | 24.11.2016

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Old 2nd December 2016, 01:30
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Companies in Russia Cautiously Optimistic for Business After Trump Election VOICE OF AMERICA Daniel Schearf Dec 1, 2016


The election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. president has raised hopes in Russia for improved relations that could help investment and trade, especially if Western sanctions imposed over Ukraine are eased. U.S. and Russian companies at Moscow government-supported industrial park Technopolis are cautiously optimistic about prospects for business.

If Western sanctions are eased, fast-growing Russian startup TEXEL says its 3-D scanning software business will get a boost in the domestic market.

"There would be more funding available for the companies and they would be able to spend more on the new technologies, and they would be able to take a higher risk with new technologies like ours, and therefore there would be an increase in sales," said TEXEL's business development director, Sergei Klimentyev.

Currency's impact

If the Russian currency, the ruble, recovers, then exports could be hurt, Klimentyev acknowledged.

"That would mean that the cost of our product would increase and it will make us less competitive, for example, with Chinese companies," he said.

Most of TEXEL's business in scanning software, used for 3-D digitization of models and printing, is in exports to Europe and Asia.

A small turnout at the Technopolis-hosted second Russian Export and Investment Fair this month did not dampen optimism from businesses located at the industrial park.

U.S. company NeoPhotonics partners with Russian state nanotechnology corporation Rusnano to manufacture opto-electronic modules and subsystems for high-speed communications networks.

Despite sanctions and a shrinking economy, they are confident business in Russia is changing for the better, and are considering expanding their manufacturing at Technopolis.

"Cooperation and business activity on [the] Russian market — it's a huge benefit for international companies," said manufacturing director Dmitry Morgun — and not just for U.S. firms, but for those in European Union nations as well.

Gradual process

Even if Western sanctions against Russia are lifted, say analysts, it would be a gradual process requiring the Kremlin to improve relations with Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Russia's economy remains dependent on exports of raw materials, making it vulnerable to low oil prices.

"That's why serious reforms are needed," said Mikhail Subbotin of the Russian Academy of Science's Institute of International Relations and World Economy. "And that's where the problem lies. The reforms should be of a double character, both political and economic."

A lack of political will and tensions with the West mean continued or even stronger sanctions are more likely. Companies in Russia Cautiously Optimistic After Trump Election

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