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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business Group Struggles to Form a Lobby

Last week one of Russia's best known entrepreneurs, Lev Vainberg, was released from jail. And although his case has not yet been closed, his supporters, themselves generally also well-known businessmen with considerable influence over the government, are hailing the event as a significant victory.


Vainberg is more than just an important figure in the world of business. He first became known as early as the first years of perestroika, when joint ventures were first allowed in the Soviet Union. He was the founder of one of the very first joint ventures in the country. But he really became famous as the organizer and leader of the Association of Joint Ventures, which was created in Moscow in February 1988.


From the very beginning of his public and commercial activity, Vainberg showed a remarkable ability to get close to the highest powers that be. He was able to get himself appointed to various business councils when Yegor Gaidar was in office. Even now he is the president of the Association of Joint Ventures and a member of the constitutional committee and the president's social advisory panel. He directs several private commercial structures.


This, no doubt, explains why Vainberg's arrest on Aug. 10 on suspicion of bribing customs officials was such a shock for Russian businessmen.


A number of major businessmen, who are by no means generally inclined to band together, came out publicly condemning the actions of the police. Now that Vainberg has been released, his supporters are beginning the second phase of their activity, since the charges have not yet been dropped.


However, it is already beginning to seem like the efforts of these businessmen are not so much directed at demonstrating Vainberg's innocence as at showing that their involvement in securing his release. The organization Roundtable of Russian Business, or KSBR, is claiming to have played the most important role in getting Vainberg released. At a press conference Saturday, journalists were handed a brochure entitled "A Chronical of the KSBR's Activity in Defending the Rights of Lev Vainberg."


The KSBR has existed for less than a year. It unites a number of major firms and companies, but so far it has done nothing but issue statements on various topics. Its participation in Vainberg's release is its first real accomplishment. This is a significant and a noble matter, but that does not prevent the KSBR from using it for its own political ends.


A great number of entrepreneurial organizations and associations have formed in Russia. The major ones are already conducting an active struggle to influence the government and its various branches, although their activity is hardly noticeable to outsiders. In principle, this is a normal process, and it is clear that Russian business has matured to the point where it must actively influence policy and politicians. However, the demonstrative arrest of Vainberg on the one hand, and the government's equally demonstrative inaction concerning the terrorism that the criminal world is conducting against Russian business on the other, show that the business world's real influence remains virtually zero. Part of the reason for this is the competition between various entrepreneurial organizations.


And the small victory of achieving Vainberg's release may actually provoke a new strains by eliminating the reason for uniting Russia's business community.