The Russian high-tech market is poised for a colorshift towards the gray side. The country’s latest steps to dodge economic and technology sanctions consist of legalizing the import of goods regardless of whether or not they have permission from the copyright holders. Russians will thus still be able to access hardware from the likes of AMD, Intel, Apple, Asus, Huawei, and others, despite these companies’ decision to no longer provide their products in the heavily-sanctioned country.
It’s reported that the Russian government itself worked on the list of companies and products now allowed for sale in the parallel market via its Ministry of Industry and Trade. In a bid to stem the bleeding of cutting-edge tech for both its governmental infrastructure and its citizens, the country has added car brands (such as Bentley, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Skoda, Tesla, Toyota, etc.) and their replacement parts, such as branded tires (Michelin, Goodyear, etc) to its listing.
Alongside cars, smartphones, and computers (from the likes of Apple, Asus, Samsung, Nokia, Sony, Lenovo, etc) also made the cut, alongside TVs, their accessories, and games consoles. The listing even extends towards tech-assisted activities such as mining, electricity, rail and shipping, agriculture, timber processing and other areas economic activity.
So-called “gray markets” usually operate on thin legal grounds. Suppliers in a gray market usually take advantage of price differences and arbitrage opportunities by acquiring goods in official (and sometimes even unofficial channels) wherever products’ MSRP is set at comparatively lower values, finally importing them towards other markets.
This marks a departure from Russia’s previous stance, which called for the destruction of goods imported into its country via unofficial channels – in line with general copyright law. But as times and sanctions change, so does Russia’s line between legal and illegal.
But Russia’s attempt at skirting sanctions isn’t a foolproof way of opening up its market to imports; affected companies will surely be loathe to fulfill any warranty claims for products not legally sold within the country’s borders. And “gray” market importers may find themselves on the bad side of Russian law enforcement, should they fail to comply with the country’s demands for pre-installing Russian-developed software in sold electronics. Russia imposed a moratorium on those fines — but it could just as quickly reverse it, catching importers on the curve.
The policy change is just another one in the bucket of moves Russia has already done to combat tightening sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine. Part of Russia’s strategy has already been called by the U.S., which recently cracked down on Russia-based cryptocurrency miners. All bets are off regarding where the future of sanctions, and their counters, will bring estranged Russia.