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Putin urges Russia lawmakers to approve stricter antitrust measures

[JURIST] Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian] urged lawmakers Tuesday to pass an antitrust bill [text, PDF, in Russian; part 2; part 3] that would impose criminal penalties for unfair competition. The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service [official website, in Russian] said that the current law is too vague [press release, in Russian] and prevents criminal punishment. The draft bill seeks to amend current legislation to clarify the definition of unfair competition, establish administrative liability for state and local authorities, and make other antitrust provisions and clarifications. The proposed legislation would also modify Article 178 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation [materials, in Russian] to address criminal liability concerns. The bill was unanimously approved [press release, in Russian] by the Federation Council last week and was previously approved in May by the Duma [official websites, in Russian]. A second reading of the bill in the Duma, the lower house, is scheduled for Wednesday. Putin told Federation Council members that the bill's progress appeared to be deliberately procrastinated [Moscow Times report].

Antitrust issues have been a concern in Russia in regards to the oil industry. Last year, the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service announced that Russian oil companies Rosneft and LUKoil [corporate websites] broke competition laws [JURIST report] in the Russian market by fixing monopoly-like prices during the summer of 2008. The government agency previously demanded that several oil companies cut their oil prices [RIA Novosti report], including Rosneft, LUKoil, Gazprom Neft, and TNK-BP [corporate websites]. In September, Gazprom Neft and TNK-BP were also found in breach of competition laws.

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