MOSCOW — Russia is accelerating lobbying efforts aimed at lifting sanctions against the country, hoping that as soon as next year it can persuade Western nations on economic and security grounds. 

The Russian government believes that recent events in global politics, including Brexit and the emerging popularity of right-wing movements in Western countries, will create conditions for the gradual lifting of sanctions against the country. In tandem with that, the country is stepping up PR activities to help restore its position in the international arena.

While a number of different tools are being used, the government continues to try to enlist global PR agencies to work on Russia's behalf. However, due to the scrutiny such an assignment involves, many of these agencies are still refusing to sign direct contracts with the Russian government, preferring to keep any such talks strictly under wraps.

The role of 'Russia's PR firm' has been vacant since the termination of the government's nine-year contract with Ketchum. While the search is ongoing, the implementation of these plans has often been assigned to Kremlin-affiliated organisations, such as the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), a $10bn state-owned fund.

The RDIF was established eight years ago, with the aim of attracting foreign investors to fund projects in Russia. Some PR commentators, including reputation expert Boris Tizengauzen, an adviser to Ukranian President Vladimir Zelensky, have noted that RDIF’s lobbying activities in this regard include promoting the lifting of sanctions.

Indeed, RDIF head Kirill Dmitriev has commented in the media about Western sanctions against Russia. In one interview this September with Russian news outlet RT, for example, he said: “As restrictions are lifted from Russia, our market will show the real possibilities of the economy.”

At the same time, in addition to the national government, large Russian businesses have also started to pay more attention to the PR support of their activities both in Russia and abroad.

In contrast to previous years, when the majority of Russian natural monopolies and state-owned corporations have mostly preferred to cooperate with leading Western PR agencies, in recent years they have started to hire major domestic PR firms.

For example, Russian oil and gas producer Rosneft signed an agreement with iMARS agency, one of Russia’s biggest PR firms, to support its activities in the domestic and Western media, and promote the company’s interests globally between 2015 and 2017. The value of the two-year contract, which was granted to iMARS as a result of a tender, is estimated at RUB15.5m (US$250k).

In addition to Rosneft, Rostec (another Russian state-owned diversified conglomerate), has also approved its corporate policy in the field of PR, signing an agreement with Moscow-based RIM for PR support of the company’s activities in Russia and abroad. Under the terms of the agreement, RIM will be responsible for the daily publication of positive materials, dedicated to Rostec (as well as numerous structural divisions and subsidiaries of the company), in Russian and foreign media throughout the year.