The arrest of one of Russia’s wealthiest tycoons, Ziyavudin Magomedov, and his brother Magomed, is one of the biggest scandals to hit Russia’s business community. Not only does this case provide another example of Russian power plays, used to secure political power and control over resource distribution, but it is also likely to affect the dynamics within one of Russia’s most lucrative sectors – infrastructure construction.
Belonging to an elite network can be a double-edged sword, as the experience of Igor Shuvalov, Russia’s outgoing first Vice-Prime Minister, attests. The partnerships that he forged through a Moscow law firm have been the source of both strength and vulnerability.
Despite the progress made by Ukraine towards the liberalisation of the gas market, its reform efforts have been marred by the political headwinds and interference of powerful elite networks. Overcoming this inertia will determine Ukraine’s future financial prosperity; however, the window of opportunity is closing. The break-up of Naftogaz is a very undesirable thing from the perspective of key stakeholders, in the sense that it would create significant competition in the marketplace – a market they have controlled both in terms of production and marketing.
China's recently published Arctic policy places great emphasis on the development of the Polar Silk Road, which will require further expansion of its cooperation with Russia. Shadow Governance looks beyond the geopolitical layer of the China-Russia partnership in the Arctic, and analyses its commercial implications and its impact on Russian elite dynamics.
In 2018, Putin is expected to be re-elected for his 4th presidential term. He will do so against the background of eroding institutions and underhand elite infighting. The transition of power in 2018 and the changes in the ruling elite will happen in the context of slowing economic growth and depleting financial reserves, weak institutions, negative foreign policy inertia, and a risk of social tensions.
As Ukraine enters the penultimate year of Poroshenko’s presidency, it teeters on the brink of revolutionary failure. Despite Western assistance and policy advice, the influence of the country’s oligarchs and associated systemic corruption has yet to be dislodged. A lack of political will is placing pressure on Ukraine, with indications that civil society and a coalition of populists may potentially shift the balance.
A draft proposal for a new Investment Code was released earlier this month in Uzbekistan. Devised to bring legislation on investment relations under one umbrella, and introduce market transparency, the draft code shows promise. Even if passed into law before 2018, implementation will be a struggle. Mirziyoyev realistically operates in a system that is still rooted in patron-client relations, nepotism and corruption.
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Tajikistan’s investment environment is inhospitable, regardless of an investors appetite for risk. Business and politics are inseparable in the country, and the political elite successfully manipulate the political and commercial environment to their benefit – seen through cases of embezzlement, corruption, intimidation of rivals, and the diversion of profits offshore. Those who challenge the Presidential family in private enterprise inevitably face repercussions.
A month after the Saudi King’s landmark visit to Moscow, the courtship between Russia and the Saudis is yet to show signs of a slowdown. While a lot of the discussion revolves around the geopolitical dividends for the Kremlin, the new partnership has more pragmatic business implications for key power players. Shadow Governance looks beyond the headlines to uncover the key Russian benefactors of the new friendship between Moscow and Riyadh.
Reforms have brought a degree of transparency to Ukraine’s political system. A legacy of oligarch interference over political institutions, however, is not so easily disrupted; evident in media revelations that President Poroshenko has prioritised the security and growth of his business interests over the promises he made to the electorate. As Ukraine’s future balances between progress and regression, will the balance tilt towards further reform, or will the road towards a new oligarch class and influence be opened?
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Although Moscow is keen to maintain some degree of influence over Kazakhstan, there are strong indications that Astana is repositioning its foreign policy focus. A careful balancing between East and West has been replaced by a marked shift towards anti-Russian defiance – seen in alternative foreign ties, internal social and cultural policies, and reshuffles of the political elite.
With the presidential elections just six months away, the attention of the Kremlin is on targeting the social media audience efficiently to avoid the repetition of 2012 scenario. However, attempts to engage and mobilise Internet users have been sporadic and clumsy while their effect has been marred with the Kremlin’s continuous attempts to increase Internet censorship.