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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

RSPP to Fund Pro-Russia PR Campaign

The country's top business lobby, the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, or RSPP, plans to fork out as-yet unspecified sums for international public relations in a quest to improve Russia's investment climate.

"We'd like to see Russia tear itself away from the lower ranks [of credit, investment and corruption ratings]," said Yukos owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who heads the RSPP's working group for foreign relations.

"Whether Russia is a good or bad place is not significant from the point of view of business," Khodorkovsky said. "Global investors don't look at perceptions when it comes to business decisions, they look at authoritative ratings."

The country not only needs to pass a slew of laws, implement them and take other steps to earn higher credit and investment ratings, Khodorkovsky said, it also needs to get the word out about positive changes.

The RSPP plans to hire an international PR company to help spread the good news about Russia in the United States, Britain, France and Germany. The tender is to be held in early November.

The RSPP's members, who collectively produce about 60 percent of the country's gross domestic product, will provide the as-yet unspecified budget. They will also foot a English-language web portal costing roughly $400,000 per year. The tender for a designer is also planned for early November.

Tackling Russia's problematic investment climate from the other side, the RSPP plans to have its members sign a charter of corporate ethics.

If members violate the charter, the punishment "at minimum would be expulsion from the RSPP, public exposure and possibly ... blacklisting or totally boycotting the company," said RSPP vice president Igor Yurgens.

The RSPP also announced it will set up a dispute resolution commission for ethical issues, such as mudslinging PR campaigns and, possibly, using "administrative resources," that is, resources available to amenable authorities. The commission's decisions would not be legally binding.

"We've run into the problem of corporate conflicts, which have rocked the country, hinder economic growth and worsen the country's investment climate," said Boris Titov, head of agrochemical company Azot and the RSPP's ethics commission.

To start, the commission will review cases only where both parties agree to abide by the decision, Titov said. It may later accept cases under application from single parties.

"We believe refusal to participate would already lead to a drop in a company's authority," Titov said.

Lawyers, arbitration specialists and RSPP members will make up the commission, although the proportion has not been set, Titov said. The commission's underlying guidelines and rules, and compensation for the arbitrators, have not yet been spelled out, he said.

Several of the RSPP's members -- including the heads of aluminum giant RusAl, pulp and paper conglomerate Ilim Pulp, and financial-industrial holding Alfa Group -- have been involved recently in high-profile business disputes ripe with accusations of dirty dealing.