'Rotenberg bill' to give compensation for sanctions losses passes first Duma reading

By bne IntelliNews October 9, 2014

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Russia's State Duma  passed at its first reading on October 9 a law providing for compensation from the state budget for losses incurred by Russians through "unfair" foreign court decisions. 

Economy minister Aleksei Ulyukaev, personally attending the session, protested against the law. According to Ulyukaev, the law contradicts Russia's international obligations and creates "unclear budget liability for foreign assets”. "Basically we are sponsoring the export of capital from the country in different forms, which probably is not the goal of economic policy," Ulyukaev told parliament. The representatives of both the government and the president in the Duma did not intervene in the debate.

The law has been introduced by Vladimir Ponezhevsky of the ruling United Russia party, who explained it was an attempt to protect Russian citizens against "unfriendly steps" in the context of sanctions imposed on Russia by EU and US, including sanctions targeting a number of businessmen believed to be close to Russian president Vladimir Putin. The draft bill has been thus nicknamed by critics as "the Rotenberg law," referring to the brothers Boris and Arkady Rotenberg, oligarchs and childhood friends of Russian president Vladimir Putin, whose foreign assets have been frozen. It was supported only by Putin's United Russia party.

According to Ponezhevsky, the bill does not seek to protect any specific individuals, but foreign property owned by Russian citizens targeted by an unjust decision of a foreign court. "Unjust" in this context means court cases that should have been heard in Russia and not abroad, Ponezhevsky said. Head of the Duma committee on constitutional order Vladimir Pligin declared the bill had a preventive character in the case that Ukraine expropriated residents of Crimea. 

Yulia Tseplyaeva, analyst at Sberbank, told business daily Kommersant that the law could cost hundreds of billions of rubles. Moreover, assets targeted by sanctions had not been confiscated but only frozen, she said. 

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