Medvedev Orders Reduced Restrictions on Small-, Medium-Sized Russian Businesses

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President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday ordered a reduction in restrictions on Russia's small- and medium-size businesses, which have long suffered from tight official controls.

Medvedev's move, which came a week after his inauguration, fulfilled some of his campaign promises for legislation giving more freedom to businesses and civil society.

He said "excessive administrative barriers" regarding small and medium businesses must be lifted, and he ordered Kremlin officials to simplify registration rules and reduce the number of official checks required at small businesses to one every three years.

Russian entrepreneurs now face endless checks by police and tax authorities, sanitary inspectors, fire brigades and numerous other officials. The excessive scrutiny creates a breeding ground for corruption.

Medvedev also said that small businesses should be allowed to register by simply notifying authorities of their existence. The existing procedures require them to obtain official licenses and to fill out numerous forms to get registered.

Later Wednesday, Medvedev issued a decree, ordering the Cabinet to draft legislation easing control procedures and registration rules for small and medium business within two months.

The 42-year-old former lawyer has cast himself as a pro-business politician. But critics say he is simply following the lead of his predecessor and longtime mentor, Vladimir Putin, who has given the Kremlin a near-monopoly on political power and energy resources.

Medvedev made Wednesday's move as Putin was on a business trip to St. Petersburg, and Russia's nationwide television stations, all state controlled, gave ample coverage to the comments of both men.