Business

Russia acknowledges it has an image problem

  • 23 December 2010
  • From the section Business

Russia has an image problem due to cases such as the death in jail of a whistleblower and the trials of an ex-tycoon, a senior official has said.

But the president's chief economic adviser added that Russia was working hard to improve the investment climate.

"We are doing our best to punish those people who are not following the rule of law," said Arkady Dvorkovich.

Many critics believe that the cases against former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky are politically motivated.

Khodorkovsky is currently serving an eight-year jail term for fraud and tax evasion and could stay behind bars until 2017 if found guilty in a second trial.

In 2009, a prominent lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who was being held on tax evasion charges, died in unexplained circumstances in Moscow's Matrosskaya Tishina detention centre.

'History of corruption'

Mr Dvorkovich told the BBC's Russia Business Report that it should not matter if a person worked in the government, police or was doing business, if he or she was not following the rule of law.

And he said that "it will take time" to deal with the problem of corruption in Russia.

Russia is ranked 154th out of 178 states by Transparency International, while the UK is 20th in the group's latest Corruption Perceptions Index.

"You must understand that in such a big county with a history of corruption going back at least 1000 years, overnight changes are not possible," said Mr Dvorkovich.

"It's in the heads of people. It's a systemic problem. It's not the problem of a group of officials."

He also said that that while foreign investors were complaining about cases where corruption and lack of rule of law created obstacles, most of the investors putting big money into Russia still believed that the country was a good place to do business right now.

"The vast majority of those investors are happy about working in Russia," said Mr Dvorkovich.