You didn’t think we were going to let this go without repeating some of Mr. Deripaska’s comments about life in Russia, did you?
Oleg Deripaska, head of Rusal, commenting on the harsh sentences meted out to the two young female members of the female band Pussy Riot who performed an admittedly tasteless performance in a Moscow cathedral last year:
If the legal system had functioned properly, he is quoted as saying, the women would have been sentenced to 15 days of community service.
Instead, they were detained for too long, and the system then had to justify itself by putting them on trial. Or, as he puts it, “someone had to cover their ass.”
“The Russian law enforcement system is so strong that it will defend itself ’til the last bullet,” he said, adding that the Russian FSB security service is now “twice as big” as the Soviet KGB.
Not satisfied with taking a shot at the legal (?) system, Mr. Deripaska then went on to lambast the Russian banking structure, saying bank lending is dominated by just five major banks who handle 72% of all loans and are mostly state-controlled. Interest rates are too high, with small firms struggling to get credit; typically loans are over just three years and are charged at 15% interest.
And not just the banking sector…
Gazprom, the majority-state-owned natural gas and oil producer, comes into the firing line for raising gas prices to levels where they are hurting Russian consumers – by which he means commercial consumers – as Gazprom tries to raise subsidized domestic prices closer to the prices it secures for export sales to Europe.
The last comment he made to the Financial Times is the one we liked the best, coming as it does from a prominent member of the Russian business community. Mr. Deripaska is pessimistic about the prospects of eradicating graft in Russia:
“There is not enough prison capacity to fight corruption,” he says.
Is that the voice of experience?