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Return flight

After a decade of asset stripping and capital flight the Russians are finally investing in their own economy

By Arkady Ostrovsky   April 2001

Russian business tycoons are acting very strangely. Some of the most notorious “oligarchs” associated with looting and theft have been spotted investing in their companies, improving infrastructure and even paying wages to their workers.

Consider Vladimir Potanin, who controls Norilsk Nickel, the world’s largest nickel producer and one of Russia’s notorious oligarchs. He has recently had warm bus shelters built in Norilsk, one of the coldest and darkest of Russia’s towns, built in the 1930s by the prisoners of Stalin’s labour camps. Heated and glazed, the shelters look encouragingly out of place, surrounded by the remains of Stalin’s barracks.

The…

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