. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

In Search of the Elusive Decree

As if sifting through the barrage of Russian laws, decrees and resolutions weren't enough, finding those documents in their respective official publications can make it even harder to keep up with legislative and regulatory changes.


In addition to providing attorneys and linguists a challenging study in Russian grammar, locating the documents is important because the date of their publication is generally when they enter into force.


Nobody knows the exact number, but there are scores of newspapers and journals which have the authority to publish federal and subordinate legislation of the Russian government and its assorted agencies. The law firm Clifford Chance receives more than 40 separate publications.


"It's a nightmare," said Alfred Evans, an attorney with Clifford Chance.


"You miss things altogether, they don't get published where they're supposed to, and sometimes a regulation is issued and they start enforcing it before it gets published," he said.


A ministry or department may have its own official vestnik, or bulletin, but that does not preclude official publication of its normative acts in any one of a number of others.


The Central Bank, for instance, puts out its own weekly vestnik, but its instructions can also be found in Rossiiskaya Vesti, a popular official mouthpiece for government-generated acts.


Here and in Rossiiskaya Gazeta are the most common places to look for top-level legislation. The two papers are generally responsible for most federal laws, governmental resolutions and presidential edicts, according to the press office of the president's administration.


But even a dense, daily broadsheet has trouble keeping pace with the flow of paper churned out by the White House.


The Federal Securities Commission, which used to depend primarily on Rossiiskaya Gazeta for publication of its regulations -- the number of which has swelled in recent months -- plans to launch its own vestnik sometime next month.


"The volume of publications is large in Rossiiskaya Gazeta," said Larisa Solodukhina, press secretary to the commission's executive director, Dmitry Vasiliyev.


She said the newspaper was not unusually late in putting out the regulations, but not as prompt as the market demands.


"The work of the stock market depends on the normative basis of the Federal [Securities] Commission," she said, adding that Rossiiskaya Gazeta was not as fast "as we would have liked."


Unsurprisingly, the official publication of regulatory acts in Russia was mandated by presidential decree, in January of 1993.


One Western attorney said the Russian system is not any more complex than that in the United States, but what is needed are private companies that can disperse information quickly and accurately.


"Lawyers all have to get a look at official sources eventually, but you need to have a mechanism to get into the laws more quickly," said Maryann Gashi-Butler, a partner at White & Case. "And that mechanism ultimately will be a commercial service."


In the United States, said Evans, the Federal Register covers all regulations, while laws are published by Congress and each state has its own official publication.


But the United States also has the Lexis system, a private company that offers a computerized list of legislation, said Gashi-Butler.


"In America, you go to the computer first and use the commercial source, then you go to the official source," she said. "Commercial entities in Russia haven't developed the same sophistication and reliability in all laws."


A handful of commercial entities do exist in Russia, and some even offer English translations, though those are not always accurate.


And there can be other glitches with the services as well.


One private legal database now includes the government resolution allowing the securities commission's new vestnik -- but the document hasn't been officially published yet, so it is not in force.