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Top Kremlin official suggests global tech giants open branch offices in Russia — sources

MOSCOW, November 22. /TASS/. First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Administration, Sergei Kiriyenko, on Wednesday met with managers of the world’s leading Internet companies behind closed doors, suggesting that they open representative offices in the country, sources who participated in the meeting told TASS.

"He said [it] clearly," the source added, speaking about the proposal to Facebook to set up a branch in Russia. According to the source, a Facebook representative noted in reply to Kiriyenko’s proposal that "they are working on it, but their company is big, so signals take a long time." Facebook has stayed mum on TASS’s request for a comment.

Another source, who also attended the meeting, told TASS that the proposal to open representative offices in Russia did not only apply to Facebook. "To be full-fledged participants of the Russian Internet economy, it is sensible for foreign companies to be present here with a branch office," the source explained.

According to a press release by the Russian Electronic Communications Association (RAEC, which organized the meeting as part of the Russian Internet Week), among the issues that had been discussed at the gathering, arranged as a business breakfast were providing tax benefits to IT companies, net neutrality attitudes, and the unacceptability of monopolization of the market by large platforms.

"Our market has been and will be open to foreign companies. There are no plans to constrain it. However, there is one condition, which is that Russian legislation must be strictly adhered to. It is unacceptable when a company has a competitive advantage, because it does not take responsibility to comply with the rules," RAEC cited Kiriyenko as saying.

Other issues

In addition, those attending the meeting hashed over several other issues. "The question by Anna Serebryanikova, Chief Operating Officer at MegaFon, about self-regulation of the big data market, sparked a heated debate," according to RAEC’s statement. Kiriyenko pointed out that the government is not trying to impose development patterns on anyone, but is striving for clear and transparent rules instead.

According to him, rules that are shaped by market participants work best, the statement reads. As an example, Kiriyenko cited an anti-piracy agreement, which had been recently signed by Yandex,, Rambler and rights holders from the largest media holdings, RAEC quoted the Kremlin official as saying.

Self-regulation in the gaming industry had also been addressed during the meeting. Kiriyenko believes that game developers and distributors could start with an alliance, working out rules of collaboration, setting game content age ratings, and bolstering the industry’s transparency. "The first deputy chief of staff in the Russian presidential administration asked to think over which support measures are needed for the gaming industry to make Russian games the best in the world," according to the statement.

The issues of using Yandex’s smart speaker for digital assistant 'Alice' had also been raised, delegates to the meeting told TASS. "We are open to connecting new services and opportunities for 'Alice', including public services. To teach 'Alice' new things, there is a new open platform, 'Yandex. Dialogues', which currently boasts over 30,000 skills and chats," the Yandex press center told TASS.

Dmitry Buyanov, Director of Government Relations of the Group-IB, said that he left feeling positive about the meeting. Since the business breakfast had lasted for just an hour, not everyone had succeeded in asking their questions, so Kiriyenko ordered to collect all those left unanswered and send them to the Kremlin.