Biškek, the window for Russian business
by Vladimir Rozanskij

Among the Central Asian countries, Kyrgyzstan is becoming the preferred route for Moscow's entrepreneurs to circumvent the sanctions imposed for the conflict in Ukraine. The customs union with Russia, the ease of banking transactions, and the availability of cheap labour are among the factors encouraging business relocation to Bishkek. Also looking at new trade routes to the East.

Bishkek (AsiaNews) - Relokatsija, the "transfer" of one's business to Kyrgyzstan, is increasingly becoming the best opportunity for Russian entrepreneurs to exploit, as explained in an extensive report by the financial newspaper Kommersant.

It has been so since the beginning of the sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, together with other countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia, and has now established itself as the main "commercial window" for those who want to develop activities that do not are linked to war, or just to circumventing the sanctions themselves.

A first advantage is certainly that of tax relief, which Kyrgyzstan offers in many variations, favoring foreign investors even over local ones. In many sectors there are no taxes on corporate earnings, and those for individuals are also significantly reduced.

Furthermore, the activity in these areas opens up new market directions, taking advantage of Bishkek's relationships with the most interested countries in Asia, the Middle East and other parts of the world.

The Kyrgyz workforce is also offered at very low costs, especially compared to Russia, but also compared to neighboring countries. It is ideal for businesses that require large numbers of employees, and those that are looking for workers with certain characteristics, not too technologically refined, but with some factory or construction site experience.

The procedures for registering your company in Kyrgyzstan are among the quickest and most simplified, and it only takes a few days to start your business at full speed, without bureaucratic obstacles and with very few limitations on the ownership and administration of your company.

For Russians, the socio-cultural atmosphere in Kyrgyzstan is particularly favourable, being among the Central Asian countries the one with the least pretensions to "de-colonisation".

There is certainly a tendency to reintroduce the dominance of the local language and culture, but without particular hatred towards the Russians, masters of the region for a long time. In Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, larger and more developed countries, the issue is much more acute, and many more commercial and legal barriers apply to Russian entrepreneurs.

In Kyrgyzstan - as the Russians call it, who in this case do not use the Asian "-stan" - it is convenient for the Russians to work also because it is part of the customs union with Russia, it makes the Swift system available for banking transactions, and the Russian language, being the second official language, can be used in all practices, which Kazakhstan is instead trying to prevent. Customs conditions for cars and most materials comply with the rules of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAES), controlled by Moscow.

In practice this is the only country outside the borders where a Russian can easily be the founder and general director of a company, although it is always advisable to have a Kyrgyz citizen among the financiers and administrators, to ensure that you do not have problems with payments and other banking practices.

Even better is if you obtain the second Kyrgyz nationality, compatible with the Russian one, and which is also issued without great difficulty. In this way it becomes simple to open branches and representations in other countries, as well as in the various locations within Kyrgyzstan, and it is possible to carry out an effective "customs cleaning" of one's productions, opening up many commercial routes also towards Europe. An additional advantage is the total freedom of the cryptocurrency market.

Only in Kyrgyzstan can Russians use Visa and MasterCard credit cards, now inaccessible at home and also in other "friendly" countries, where at most they grant cards from local banks.

In the Kyrgyz ones, however, you can also make payments without checks of up to 100 thousand dollars, and the opening of accounts is often an alternative to the registration of Russian companies itself, allowing you to continue business from Russia using these financial channels, such as many tourist agencies do.

Russia is struggling to maintain its influence on former satellite countries, and Central Asia in general is increasingly turning towards Beijing, but Russian businessmen are preparing for secondary scenarios.

These are not the first-tier economic oligarchs, who are still dependent on the policies of the Kremlin, but many entrepreneurs who want to stay away from conflicts and geo-political contradictions, going arm in arm with their Kyrgyz friends.

Photo: Flcik / Christian Arnal