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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Politics and Economics are Separate

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On Thursday, there was a hearing against Denis Kvasov, the former director of the company that owns, in a Moscow district court. The web site has not been working for days, and Kvasov is charged with violating intellectual property laws. As of Thursday, a mirror site,, and a copycat site,, where the users of were redirected, did not work. It is clear that a serious battle is going on.

There are two interesting aspects of this story, legal and political. The web site, which sells MP3 files for a fraction of the cost, has become well known thanks to the World Trade Organization negotiations between the United States and Russia. The United States, which has insisted on Russia's observance of intellectual property rights as a condition for membership into the WTO, specifically demanded that this web site be shut down.

It is not possible to assert with full certitude that the site is guilty of copyright infringement, however. Its owners have always affirmed that it is acting within the bounds of Russian law.

Although there are several lawsuits pending in Russian courts on this issue, not a single guilty verdict has yet been rendered. It is not clear why the site was closed, but in an interview with The Times, several employees of the company allege that it was due to pressure from government authorities.

The site became inaccessible at the end of last week on the eve of the meeting between Putin and Bush. Just before his trip to the United States, Putin also met with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the energetic anti-American politician, who is also a big buyer of Russian weapons. In this way, Russia once again showed that a compromise can be reached with either Bush or Chavez as long as it makes pragmatic economic sense.

At the same time, the question of placing a U.S. missile defense system in Europe is being considered as a completely separate issue because this is politics. On the eve of the last Group of Eight summit, Putin announced the possible re-targeting of missiles on Europe, while at the same time colorfully describing the advantages of economic cooperation with Russia.

The strategy of dividing politics and economics does not mean anything by itself, but its results are nevertheless impressive. Foreign investors continue to be attracted to the high rapid growth of the Russian economy, which is due to high energy prices and the relatively low cost of labor. These factors do not depend on the Kremlin, whereas the political sphere, in which there have been very few successes, does depend on it. And this was demonstrated by the meeting with Bush, who has become the "lame duck that limps on both legs."

This appeared as an editorial in Vedomosti.