Igor Yurgens, executive secretary of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, is a little wistful. “We used to have regular meetings with president Putin, roundtable discussions, normally in the presence of the prime minister and chief of staff,” he says. “We delivered a message, and usually he listened attentively, then we prepared a draft law if required. Then we’d work through bilateral committees and commissions.” But invitations from the Kremlin have got scarcer. “There has been a pause since the Khordorkovsky case,” Yurgens says. “We haven’t had any of these roundtable discussions since June last year. We had a chance to express some of our concerns to the president at our congress in October 2003, and that’s it. So now we’re waiting for a new meeting. It’s supposed to take place this month, and we’re hoping the dialogue will be resumed there. But at the moment, it’s pretty tense.”
The Union, perhaps Russia’s most powerful pressure group, has represented business interests since about 1989. However, it came to prominence in 2000, after president Vladimir Putin was elected.