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EU stops short of sanctioning Russian e-commerce giant Wildberries

Forbes’ Kenneth Rapoza discusses the dangers of Russia’s efforts to boost its tech sector amid sanctions. He cites the case of Russian ecommerce giant Wildberries as one example. It has managed to escape western sanctions despite being under pressure from Poland and Ukraine. Below are extracts from the article.

In the 2017 Putin Interviewsdocumentary, Vladimir Putin said to Oliver Stone that all Russian tech became American after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Moscow offices used Adobe and Microsoft software. IBM computers were used by government offices and large state-owned companies. This was a sad reality that he lamented – a country which sent a man to space, but didn’t have any real computer companies. They didn’t have anything to demonstrate their math and computer skills at home.

Several years later, Russian tech companies have expanded their reach. Google arrived in town, but Yandex quickly beat them out of the market. Yandex was once traded on the Nasdaq. It is now banned, as it was for all things Russian.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the West quickly bought into Russia and fled to Ukraine in the winter 2022. Some people left screaming but they left. Russia is isolated. Even Chinese companies are now reportedly leaving or being on standby, despite the threat of secondary sanctions. They also don’t seem to be expanding.


Jack Ma, a Chinese billionaire, started AliExpress.

This exodus has been a boon for some Russian companies.

Wildberries, a company that was started in Moscow by a mother in 2004 is now taking some of the slack from foreign companies on an expansion pause. Forbes estimates that Wildberries founder Tatyanabakalchuk has a net worth of $5 billion. Ukraine sanctioned Wildberries on July 2021, just before Russian tanks invaded the Donbas. This was in response to Wildberries selling books that were not politically correct according to Kyiv’s standards, and also for selling Russian military merchandise. AliExpress isn’t banned in Ukraine, and you can order a Russian Z military patch online. Bakalchuk was also sanctioned by Poland for her alleged ties with VTB, which is a fully sanctioned Russian bank.


Wildberries intends to almost double its turnover by 2022. Interfax quotes Vladimir Bakin, the company’s CFO, as saying that Wildberries intends to nearly double its turnover in 2022. Wildberries would gain 35 million monthly active customers if they took over AliExpress. This is the same number as Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba in 2021. As 2022 comes to an end, it could be even higher. It is one of the top 10 ecommerce players. It is ranked ahead India’s Flipkart and China’s JD.Com.

The European Interest online publication asked this month if the 9 th round EU of sanctions would include Bakalchuk or Wildberries. On December 16, the complete list of sanctioned persons was made public. Wildberries and its owner weren’t sanctioned for many VTB-related subsidiary companies.

In 2022, more than 1,000 companies fled Russia because of the Ukraine War. Russia cannot replace half of these companies with domestic players. China is expanding its presence, but it is cautious. China announced earlier this month that it would prohibit certain microchips sales to Russian defense contractors. This will likely be symbolic and difficult to stop. Russia is being ringfenced, deprived of the modern economy. Russia, which has never been able to develop its own economy post-USSR, is now realizing how dependent it is on the West for technology.

It is okay to have some dependence. A lot of dependence can be dangerous. Russians might enjoy making fun of Europe’s energy crisis. This is due to Russia’s singular focus on climate change, restrictions (but no sales bans) on Russian oil and gas imports, and its own unique focus on climate change. The Europeans are having a harder time getting Russian fuel. It is also certain that the Russians are losing out to a high-tech economy that they should have built many years ago. Instead of relying on their Western partners, as their diplomats love to say, and instead creating their own high-tech ecosystem,

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