Russia’s Roads, Trains, Planes Frustrate Business

He also said prison officials would not show him documents about her transfer to hospital or allow her lawyers to visit. The administration of the prison could not immediately be reached for comment, and prison service employees in the remote Mordovia region declined to comment. Tolokonnikova, 23, announced on Monday that she was starting a hunger strike to protest against “slave labour” at Corrective Colony No. 14, where she is serving her sentence, and that she had received a death threat from a senior prison official. She said inmates were forced to work up to 17 hours a day, deprived of sleep and subjected to collective punishment and violence from senior inmates enforcing order in a system reminiscent of the Soviet-era Gulag forced labour camps. Prison authorities dismissed her accusations that the jail is run in violation of Russian law and human rights standards. ABUSE CLAIM Earlier on Friday, Verzilov gave out a statement from Tolokonnikova in which she said prison guards had taken drinking water away from her isolation cell and one had roughly grabbed her and held her in place by her shoulders. The Mordovia branch of the prison service said the drinking water had been replaced by warm boiled water in accordance with doctor’s orders and that Tolokonnikova had refused to let medics check her body for bruises. Tolokonnikova and two other band members were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for a February 2012 protest in which they burst into Christ the Saviour Cathedral and prayed to the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin. Kremlin critics say their trial was part of a crackdown on dissent since Putin started a third term at the Kremlin in May 2012. Pussy Riot and other Kremlin critics accuse Putin of fostering too close ties with the resurgent Russian Orthodox Church and discriminating against sexual minorities as part of the wider crackdown.

Andrey Filatov, co-owner and chief executive of N-Trans, speaks during the Reuters Investment Summit in Moscow September 24, 2013. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

“The question is whether there is a business opportunity in which to invest, and invest with a good return.” Many investors in state-led projects cultivate close ties to state officials as a way to safeguard their investments. The barrier to growth caused by creaking infrastructure has been recognized by President Vladimir Putin, who unveiled a $13 billion investment plan to build new roads and railways at an economic forum in June. He promised to build a new motorway around Moscow, upgrade the Trans-Siberian railway in the Far East and build a high-speed rail line from the capital to Kazan in central Russia. CONSTRAINT TO BUSINESS Businessmen say the decrepit infrastructure is a barrier to growth – especially in a vast country where a shrinking labor force will need to become increasingly mobile to be productive. Mikhail Khabarov of A1, the investment vehicle of Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa Group, finds it hard to get to the Kemerovo region, where his group is involved in a coal business. Better flight connections between regional cities would help, he says. “This is the issue of my time’s efficiency,” Khabarov said. “Regional aviation is a significant constriction on the development of business relations.” Russia ranked 102nd on the World Economic Forum’s 2013-2014 Global Competitiveness Report in terms of quality of air transport infrastructure, 88th on port infrastructure and 136th for the quality of its roads. A KPMG analysis in 2012 of the relative costs of doing business in 14 countries in the Americas, Europe, and Asia Pacific gave Russia the second-lowest score for its distribution infrastructure – behind China, India and Mexico. Rail logjams can hit business. Hundreds of rail cars loaded with naphtha and fuel oil were blocked for days on their way to Russia’s Pacific port of Vanino earlier in the year due to bad weather and traffic bottlenecks.