The Russian high-tech market is about to change color to the gray side. The country’s latest move to dodge economic and technological sanctions is to legalize the import of goods whether or not they have permission from the copyright holders. Russians will therefore still be able to access hardware from AMD, Intel, Apple, Asus, Huawei and others, despite the companies’ decision to no longer supply their products to the heavily sanctioned country.
It is reported that the Russian government itself has been working on the list of companies and products now allowed to be sold on the parallel market through its Ministry of Industry and Trade. In an effort to stem the bleeding of advanced technologies for its government infrastructure and citizens, the country has added car brands (such as Bentley, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Skoda, Tesla, Toyota, etc. ) and their spare parts, such as brand tires (Michelin, Goodyear, etc.) to its list.
Apart from cars, smartphones and computers (like Apple, Asus, Samsung, Nokia, Sony, Lenovo, etc.) also made a difference, alongside televisions, their accessories and game consoles. The list even extends to technology-assisted activities such as mining, electricity, rail and shipping, agriculture, wood processing, and other areas of economic activity.
So-called “grey markets” usually operate on thin legal grounds. Gray market vendors typically take advantage of price differences and arbitrage opportunities by purchasing goods through official (and sometimes even unofficial) channels wherever the MSRP of products are set at relatively lower values, ultimately import them to other markets.
This marks a break with Russia’s previous position, which called for the destruction of goods brought into its country through unofficial channels – in accordance with general copyright law. But as times and penalties change, the Russian border between legal and illegal also changes.
But Russia’s attempt to circumvent sanctions is not a surefire way to open its market to imports; the companies involved will certainly be reluctant to respond to any warranty claims for products not legally sold within the country’s borders. And “grey” market importers could find themselves on the wrong side of Russian law enforcement if they fail to comply with the country’s requirements to pre-install Russian-developed software in electronics sold. Russia has imposed a moratorium on such fines – but it could just as quickly reverse it, taking importers on the curve.
The policy shift is just another step Russia has already taken to fight tougher sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine. Part of Russia’s strategy has already been called out by the United States, which recently cracked down on Russian-based cryptocurrency miners. All bets are off as to where the future of sanctions, and their counters, will take Russia away.