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Digest 02

We are glad to present you the second issue of the St. Petersburg International Legal Forum Digest.

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New rules in the notary legislation: “The new law corresponds to all the modern tendencies and pushes Russian notariat to the next stage of progress”

Maria Melnikova

Adviser to the Minister for Justice of the Russian Federation

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- In the interview for the 1st issue of the St. Petersburg International Legal Forum Digest Yuri Liubimov, Secretary of State, Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, described the Forum as the setter of regulatory trends. What trends appeared after the Forum 2013 in the field of notarial legislation? What positive changes can you mention?

- Topics addressed at the Forum 2013 have really become trends of legal regulation this year. They also appeared in the notaries’ activity. Generally, we pay much attention to notariat and its development as it is related to all the spheres of our life. We go to a notary to have power of attorney, or everyday documents and copies reviewed and signed. These things are often inconspicuous bur they form an important part of our life. Besides, we go to a notary to open the inheritance and to make complex transactions. Since the transaction is checked by a notary, we are usually sure that it is legal, that we are informed on transaction’s main points and legal consequences, that identity is proved and so on.

At the Forum 2013 the panelists debated the opportunity of using electronic technologies in notariat. Obviously, they are not as wide spread in Russia as, for instance, in Europe or in the USA. Russian notaries are just starting using them in their everyday activity, e.g., they deal with e-documents while receiving information from the public registers. We touched on this issue at the Forum as we wanted to know how electronic technologies keep developing not only in the narrow sector but in the notaries’ activity in general. For example, in the foreign states they use electronic document flow actively; notaries attest copies of documents and perform transactions in electronic format using electronic signatures, and a document signed electronically has the same legal effect as the traditional one.

In connection with an active introduction of electronic document flow, at the Forum 2013 we discussed shift in Russian notaries’ functions and the role they would play after the new rules of document execution would have been introduced. The results of this discussion were taken into account at drafting new bills.

This year in the framework of the Forum bilateral meetings with colleagues from France and Hungary took place. The delegation of the Ministry of Justice and Russian notaries also visited Italy. Without exception, the most important issues to discuss concerned information technologies and their integration into the notaries’ activity.

- Maria Arkadievna, could you please tell us more about the new bill? What changes will the electronic document flow bring into the notarial activity?

- The federal law №379-FZ adopted by the State Duma and approved by the Federation Council of the Russian Federation changes rules of notarial documents execution considerably. It allows notaries to use electronic technologies both at attesting documents and their maintenance and record keeping as well as getting information on notarial activity. As soon as the new law comes into effect (it will be partly effective from February 1, 2014 and enters into full force and effect from July 1, 2014) every notary will be able to attest any document in electronic format the electronic signature being fulfilled by parties or a grantor. It will be also possible to transfer any document from a paper format into an electronic one and vice versa. In other words, the new law corresponds to all the modern tendencies and pushes Russian notariat to the next stage of progress.

The law also enacts the universal notarial data system where notarial registers will be kept in electronic format. This contributes considerably to notarial activity’s effectiveness and allows lowering the number of disputes, for example, of those connected with inheritance. Besides, a part of the data will be available online on an open access basis, e.g. short information on pledges on movable property and cancelled powers of attorney.

Moreover, with the help of the universal data system notaries can interact with governmental information sources through online communication. This opportunity gives new prospects and allows notaries to turn to the most crucial question, to wit transactions with real estate. Involvement of notaries into the real estate transactions could become a breakthrough in the whole process of acquisition of real property rights. While attesting the real property transaction a notary guarantees its legalness, to wit effectiveness of making decisions on such transactions will increase dramatically. Being an applicant a notary can also submit transaction documents to the state registration on his own behalf and then receive a certificate of registration of title in electronic format. Therefore, the procedure of real property rights state registration will become much easier. It is also worth pointing out that the whole process of a notarized transaction’s state registration will take only 5 days and could be carried on in e-format exclusively.

- Did you address issues related to the data system security?

- Of course, we did. The universal data system will have all the necessary protection equipment. Firstly, safety and consistency of operation are crucial for any information source. Secondly, notarial activity is protected by notarial secret kept by the Federal Notarial Chamber, owner of the universal data system. It is worth mentioning that experience of Germany, Austria, France and many other countries in using e-documents we discussed at the last Forum helped us to puzzle out and get a position on important legal issues in using the new technologies. For example, we had a long discussion on whether documents can be asserted in notary’s absence while the electronically signed documents are simply sent him or her. In this matter Russian notaries agreed with their foreign colleagues as even at using an electronic signature along with all the modern communication facilities it’s highly important to preserve the role of notary which concerns not only attestation but more witnessing the free will of transaction parties and explaining them the main points and legal consequences of a transaction. Thereby the law states that the personal presence of a notary at witnessing electronic documents is indispensable.

- Today the programme of the SPBILF 2014 is being shaped. Do you plan to hold a roundtable on notarial issues?

- Surely, and the roundtable is already being prepared. In 2014 we decided to address matters related to the cross-border inheritance, the topic being very important today for many people. The smooth blurring of the national borders under the pressure of economic globalization and large-scale migration of population in search of more comfortable conditions for a family life and international business development requires completely new skills in transferring property from generation to generation. Legacy transfer procedure demands solving complex contentious questions of competence and substantive law.

When a few legal systems with their own viewpoints on transnational inheritance regulation collide, these issues become really essential as they impact a concrete legal result important for legal successors, creditors and other parties involved.

I think this topic will be interesting not only for notaries but also for practicing lawyers and advisers facing this problem in their own practice. The coordination of notaries’ activity and comprehension of different countries’ legacy transfer legislation will be addressed at the appropriate panel in 2014.

In Europe, for instance, they already use electronic system which helps notaries from the EU to interact in respect of inheritance issues. I believe the presentation of the system will be a matter of discussion at the Forum. I do hope our invitation will be accepted by leading experts from Germany, Switzerland, France, Spain and Great Britain.

Having adopted the new law we have already reached the new stage in the Russian legal system development in its notarial part. We don’t plan to stop though and will continue advancing in the most important fields. I’m happy that in the year 2014 we’ll have a chance to meet with colleagues from Russia, CIS countries and foreign states and discuss the most urgent issues at the IV St. Petersburg International Legal Forum.

We would like to bring to your attention unique materials on the online marketing by The National Notary Magazine. Experts’ tips will be useful both for notary offices and advocates or start-up law firms.

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Do's And Don'ts For Your Social Media Strategy

By Moses Keshishian
(Originally published in the March 2013 issue of The National Notary magazine)

Social media has become an almost indispensible tool for any independent entrepreneur. But boosting your Web presence can be a challenge. Whether you’re a social-savvy mobile Notary who stays logged onto your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts all day long, or a social media newbie who panics over every status update, there are steps you can take to make the most out of your social media profiles and show the best side of your business. Here are some “dos” and “don’ts” from social media experts across the Web.

Do: Separate Business And Pleasure
As a best practice, you should keep separate profiles for your professional and personal life, according to social media blogger Sara Carter. It is important to have a business presence on social media sites, but don’t undermine your professional image with sharing pictures of your vacation and posts about crazy nights on the town. Make sure to keep Facebook, Twitter, and other social profiles separated for your business and personal use.

Don’t: Disappear
Making a social Web presence work requires a consistent and on-going commitment, says Crystal Balker, a social media expert and writer. She recommends that you set aside a certain time slot daily or weekly to update your social media sites, profiles and updates. Have it become part of your work schedule.
Being consistently active on social media lets people know that you are paying attention and are accessible. Consequently, it can help you develop your business by bringing in new leads, increasing awareness, improving brand recognition and enhancing the retention rate of your existing clients.

Do: Promote Your Social Pages
Too often, business owners fail to grasp the importance of creating buzz about their social media pages, says Jillian Chopin, Senior Web Presence Professional for ReachCast. You can spend hours creating and optimizing your social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or blog, but your customers won’t even know they exist if you don’t tell them. So, promote them. Include your social media icons on your website, business cards, email signatures, newsletters, and other communications. And don’t forget to ask clients to connect to your business online. Turning an existing customer into an online fan or follower is easier than you would think…if you just ask.

Don’t: Push Your Way Into People’s Social Feeds
The most successful companies in business today have something in common. Instead of treating customers as passive targets, they treat them as active participants, said Mark Bonchek, social business strategist at Orbit & Co. Where traditional companies push out messages and products, these companies pull customers in.
To determine where you are on the push/pull continuum, take a good look at your social media strategy, Bonchek advises. Are you using social media as a channel for delivering messages to your audience? If so, you may be stuck in the push mindset. If you’re using social media as a way to listen and learn, to create an authentic relationship, and to deliver value beyond the products you sell, you are well on your way to creating an environment that pulls customers into your orbit. You’ll go beyond customer loyalty to building customer gravity.

© 2013 National Notary Association, http://nationalnotary.org. All rights reserved


Four Keys To Online Success

Promoting your Notary services effectively online requires a comprehensive approach that encompasses a wide range of Internet venues and activities. Creating a consistent tone and appearance for your online presence can increase your brand recognition in the public marketplace and can help you present a polished and professional image for current and prospective clients. By establishing a cohesive online presence for your Notary services, you can increase your customer base and your income level to a significant degree. Here are four basic guidelines for creating an effective and appealing online presence for yourself and your Notary services.

Fun with the fundamentals
Your company logo and color schemes are the basis for your future branding efforts and should reflect your own personal style as well as a clean, professional image for your company. In some cases, you can design your logo yourself; those with less artistic talent, however, may want to enlist the help of a professional graphics designer to achieve the most attractive results. Be sure to ask for a digital copy of the finished product; you can upload this file for use on all your web pages and social media sites.

Creating your website
The first step in establishing yourself online is to create your website. Integrating your logo and your chosen color scheme into these Internet venues can provide added brand recognition. A number of online sites provide easy, step-by-step templates and instructions for creating and designing your own website; alternatively, you can hire a professional to ensure that your site provides the functionality and professional appearance necessary to boost your sales and increase your visibility in the consumer and business marketplaces.

Establishing your credentials
Once your website is in place, it is time to work on your public image. Writing and publishing informative articles about your line of work can help to establish you as an authoritative source for consumers interested in the Notary field. A number of websites allow users to publish their articles online at no cost. For even more Internet exposure, consider submitting a few guest blogs to legal and Notary sites around the web. These guest appearances can make you a major star in the online community.

Building connections with social networking
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter offer exceptional access to potential clients and can provide you with convenient venues to announce your activities and promote your services to the public. Twitter is best reserved for short bursts of information due to the limited length of communications on this social network; Facebook posts, by contrast, can be longer and may incorporate images and graphic designs to reinforce your points and promote your services in these online communities. Maintaining these sites regularly and providing fresh content for your followers and friends can ensure that you retain and expand your audience in the world of social networking.

These four strategies can help you jump-start your online marketing campaigns and provide you with added visibility and name recognition. Your online reputation can reinforce your credibility and add to your success as a Notary in the competitive marketplace.

© 2013 National Notary Association, http://nationalnotary.org. All rights reserved


Effective Business Development For The Notary Signing Agent

By Chrissey Ladd
(Originally published in the November 2012 issue of The National Notary magazine)

For any business to succeed over the long run, it must create and follow an effective business growth plan. This is just as true for independent Notary Signing Agents as it is for the CEOs of multinational conglomerates. Whether you are just starting out or are a seasoned NSA, the best approach is to develop a growth plan focusing on business development activities designed to reach specific, concrete financial goals. Then you should follow the plan. A good way to create a business development plan is to apply the acronym SMART — Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely — to your goals. Your plan should consist of very specific activities that are measured, realistic to attain, and take place over a specific time frame.

Setting SMART Goals
Instead of saying, "I will earn more money this year," decide how much money you want to make, say $60,000. If you earn an average of $100 per closing, that's 600 signings a year.
That might seem ambitious, but break it down into manageable, attainable pieces. Divided into 50 weeks, that's 12 appointments a week. You now have your "SMART" Goal: "I will earn $60,000 this year by completing 12 loan signings each week." This goal is specific, can be measured, is attainable, realistic and has a set time frame.
In a tough economy, even this goal can seem intimidating. But look at your appointment history. Say you average 10 appointments from your various network boards, registries, and social media outlets. All you need to do is find two more appointments to meet your weekly goal. That's the gap between what you currently are producing and your goal.

Honing Your Marketing
Marketing is the key to establishing and growing any business. If the market doesn't know about you, it won't give you its business. Established Signing Agents typically use multiple signing registries, referral services, networking organizations, and various other resources to find work. You often can increase your assignments by improving your marketing or sales message.
First impressions often are the most important, and they usually happen fast. So it's important to be prepared with an initial sales message or pitch that identifies who you are, what you do, why you do it, when you do it and how you do it. An effective sales message can be used anywhere from a Chamber of Commerce reception to an elevator ride. Developing your own message is simple. First, write down all the services and benefits you provide. For example:
• Service: 24/7 Mobile Notary
• Benefit: Convenience of having your documents notarized in your own home/office
• Benefit: Excellent customer service
• Benefit: Ethics and integrity
Next, craft the message to show your audience what's in it for them — the only thing your audience wants to hear is what you can do for them. Here's an example. Imagine you're at a business conference, and you've just introduced yourself as a Certified Notary Signing Agent to a potential client. You have 30 seconds to leave an impression: "Title companies rely on me to achieve their goals and provide their clients with the highest quality service and integrity in every loan closing — 24/7. When you need an experienced Signing Agent to make sure everything is done right the first time, call me."
Avoid leading with statements that focus on you rather than your customer, such as, "I am proud to provide excellent customer service to all my clients 24/7 with ethics and integrity." Everyone needs a Notary now and then, but no one will remember you if you cannot drive home how you can serve them.
You also should reinforce your message with an effective marketing kit. Avoid those expensive, gimmicky versions we've all seen at trade shows and other business-to-business events. Glossy brochures, branded poly-bags and branded trinkets might have an immediate "wow" effect, but they usually wind up in your trash bin or at the bottom of your desk drawer. Keep your marketing kit simple. It should consist of a cover letter that includes a schedule of your fees, your hours of operation, and several of your business cards. All these items can be placed in a large envelope, a folder or they can even be unpackaged. The purpose of your marketing kit is to keep your name and phone number front and center of the recipient so they will call you when they have a need for your services.

Expanding Your Horizons
While your bread-and-butter business comes from the mortgage industry, don't overlook the potential of other industries. Every industry needs a Notary or comes in contact with people who do. While many companies employ Notaries, conditions change. Employees turn over, other service providers become unavailable, or they are in a new location without access to the service you provide.
You could consider anything from convenience stores to auto services to travel and concierge services. Your options will vary depending on your location. A good approach is to develop a list of all of the potential businesses in the geographic area you serve. Then set up a tracking system to keep tabs of your outreach efforts to them. There are many applications for laptops, tablets or smartphones to do this, or writing in a simple binder notebook will work.
At minimum, your tracking system should include: the name of the business and person visited, the date of each visit, and notes about any relevant conversation or follow-up appointment. Now it's time to put your plan into action. Set aside time each week to visit potential new clients and start making the rounds to deliver your sales message and marketing kit. Keep the initial visit short — no more than two minutes in the office. This initial visit is not to sell a product; it is to sell the idea of you. Ask for a business card (if appropriate) and keep it. Be patient and repeat the same visits in two weeks. It is common in business development practices to make at least three visits before a sale is closed. Your business is no different.

Managing Yourself
Sole proprietors often behave like the "worker" as opposed to the "CEO." You are also your own best sales rep, so it's crucial to manage yourself, track your progress, and hold yourself to your expectations. Be your own best boss. No business is successful without a dynamic sales team with effective leadership.

Chrissey Ladd is the NNA's 2011 Notary of the Year. She is active in the Notary community in New Jersey and has held commissions in three states over the past 15 years.

© 2013 National Notary Association, http://nationalnotary.org. All rights reserved

“Notary is a modern profession”

Jean Tarrade

President of the High Council of French Notariat

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- We admire your active participation in the Forum for already 3 years and we would like to ask you whether the international events like the Forum are important for the notary community in France? What value do you see in such events for the legal practitioners?

- There are not so many international events like the Forum. I think it’s the only one I know where so many legal systems are represented. My colleagues from the Supreme Council of Notaries of France participated in previous international notary congresses as CNUE whish is the European organization for notaries. I really think that St. Petersburg International Legal Forum is very specific. It tends to be new because it is unique and it gathers lawyers from many countries.

- How do you see the evolution of St. Petersburg International Legal Forum in the past years? What would you suggest to the existing format?

- I really think that it is becoming a must. It’s the place where people must be. I didn’t participate in the II Forum but I have been on the first and the third one. I really think that the format of the Forum is good. I would suggest that it shouldn’t become a big market of law. I think that law is not there where merchandise is. The law is an expression of culture, of civilization. That’s why I wouldn’t like the Forum to become a big market.

- France has a rich history of expansions throughout Europe and the world. Due to this, we may see now many French traditions in the legal systems and frameworks used in Spain, Italy, Portugal and even South America. Russia is also not an exemption. How would you describe the key similarities we have in the regulation of the notary? In your opinion, how can it help in strengthening the relations between the two countries in the legal area?

- France has a long legal system tradition. Most of civil codes in the world have taken an example of French Civil code of Napoleon of 1804 year. “La loi de Ventôse” which is the law that concerns notaries was published at the same time as the Civil code. It has been a model for many countries and it is still applied in France and several countries. So we can say that France is like the birthplace of modern notariat. That is why French notariat is often a reference for other countries. Our law is a civil law. In accord with the law French notaries are appointed by the Minister of Justice and the ideas they produce are strong as judgments of courts. This system provides legal security, regulations.

I think the same legal system in France and Russia builds a platform for successful economic transitions and investments. As for notaries, the same notary system is like speaking the same language. It gives us plenty of opportunities to strengthen the relations between two countries.

- French notary is well known for being at the edge of the innovations, for example in the e-document management. At the same time, the legal profession is more often called traditional than innovative. How do you ensure the inflow of new ideas in your areas? How do you sustain the innovative mindset in your community? What advice can you give to the Russian notaries to succeed in this field?

- I certainly agree with the idea that the legal profession is more traditional than other fields. This impression is created by our functions which are old. But I really think that the notary is a modern profession. Notaries use new tools, new technologies and learn something new every day to be adaptable to innovations. If I had to say something to Russian notariat, I would just say dare, only dare, and try to build the most secure technical system for notaries. Our system is based not only on Internet solutions. It is more secure. For the notaries we must have very secure system.

- Attracting young talents to the profession is one of the key focuses of the notaries around the world. From your experience and perspective, what are the most important steps to keep the profession young and dynamic? What would you suggest to your Russian colleagues?

- Young notaries in France are among the best students in law. French diplomas of notaries are highly valued. But a student should work hard in order to become a notary. I think the best thing we can do for our young notaries is to give them good and difficult studies. And when they come to work, they practice all what they have learned during their studies and become really good professionals. That is why probably our profession is now attractive for young people because they are sure they will find a job after graduation. And I think the best advice I could give for Russian colleagues is to have the best students to be notaries.

- You said that you participated in the first and third Forums. In your opinion, what are the main differences between these two events?

- I preferred the first Forum to the second one because I felt people came there to learn something new. Having visited the III St. Petersburg International Legal Forum I felt the atmosphere was changing. I noticed that more lawyers came from Common Law Countries. And this time they were here not to learn, but to say something. I disagree with that. The Forum shouldn’t become a big market.

On the cooperation between the Notary Chamber of the Voronezh Region and the Regional Council of Notaries of the Appeal Court in Aix-en-Provence.

Philippe Armengau

President of the Regional Council of Notaries of the Appeal Court in Aix-en-Provence

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- Could you please tell more on the agreement of mutual cooperation between the Notary Chamber of the Voronezh Region and the Regional Council of Notaries of the Appeal Court in Aix-en-Provence which was signed on March 8, 2013? How did you get the idea of reaching this agreement? What are its main points?

- In the framework of notarial French-Russian cooperation established in 2003 at the public level during the French-Russian colloquium on matrimonial regimes on September 2011 the president of the Notary Chamber of the Voronezh Region suggested twinning between the notaries of this region and notaries from the jurisdiction of the Aix-en-Provence Appeal Court.

Regional Council of Notaries of the Appeal Court of Aix-en-Provence became the third region of France to sign this convention, following twinning arrangements between Paris and Moscow and Versailles and St. Petersburg.

Town twinning was specified on March 8, 2013, through signing in Aix-en-Provence a Charter the object of which is:

  • to establish relationship between notaries from the two regions
  • to develop interuniversity exchanges
  • to simplify acceptance and exchange of trainees
  • to develop common activity related to both notariats
  • to assist in the Russian notariat modernization
  • to compare the two notariats, followed by information exchange on respective statutes and laws applicable in the two legal systems
  • to simplify legal files regulation related to persons who are ethnic French or Russian or are of French or Russian descent.
  • to promote notariat by stressing its role and economic utility in the global arena to provide exchange and fight against fraud and corruption

- Which events are held or are planned to be arranged to implement the agreement?

- Our first meeting in France on March 2013 allowed starting the formation of relationship between the main representatives of profession from both regions and find out the main principles and practice of this work in our countries.

Delegation of notaries from the Court of Aix-en-Provence participated in the III St. Petersburg International Legal Forum on May 15-18, 2013, together with notaries from Voronezh.

Our delegation equally came in Voronezh this late September to participate in the colloquium attended by 150 notaries from the Voronezh region. After a common presentation of notaries from the two countries and fundamental rules regulating redaction of notarial acts received in France, the difficulties arising for the reason that the Russian acts should be created on the territory of France, were still on the agenda.

We plan the redaction of bilingual acts’ model types, as, for instance, letter of attorney, what would allow simplifying and accelerating the accomplishment of legal cases.

Finally, we invited our sworn brothers to take part in the French Notaries Congress in Marseille in Mid-June 2014 which will be dedicated to “Professional Life and Family: Place in Contract.”

- The notaries in France use the e-documentation system extensively. In particular, you have the main electronic notarial archive MICEN. What are the main advantages and risks of electronic documentation maintenance? In Russia the issue of e-documentation integration into notarial system is actively discussed. What would you recommend, through your personal experience, for your Russian colleagues to pay attention to while working with this electronic system?

- Signature of authentic electronic acts, their transfer and conservation in the Central notarial archive MICEN requires preliminary introduction of a reliable technical infrastructure meeting the highest standards and control on the part of information security experts. Since its creation the system should be able to adapt, to develop formats and data carrier while ensuring security, legibility, integrity of content and respect of authenticity.

The main advantages of the system are:

  • a gain of time during the meeting what allows a notary to pay more attention to his client
  • enhancement of efficiency due to the better office organization
  • a gain of place and time of research

Therefore notaries can extend a very good reception to their clients who appreciate contemporaneity and convenience of the new signature format. So, everybody is satisfied, advantages are obvious and in spite of certain difficulties with installation I would strongly recommend this innovation.


News of the Forum

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  • On December 10, 2013 during the official meeting of A. Alkhanov, Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, with Rubén Remigio Ferro, President of the People's Supreme Court of Cuba, the Cuban delegation was invited to take part in the IV St. Petersburg International Legal Forum.

  • At the IBA "Law Firm Management" Conference Yuri Liubimov, Secretary of State, Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, and Michael Reynolds, President of the IBA, discussed keynote points of mutual cooperation in the framework of the IV St. Petersburg International Legal Forum.

  • During the meeting of E. Borisenko, Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, with representatives of Armenian legal community in Erevan the parties addressed the participation of the Armenian delegation in the IV St. Petersburg International Legal Forum.

  • In the course of their meeting A. Konovalov, Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, and Wu Aiying, Minister of Justice of the People's Republic of China, discussed the opportunity of the Guest Conference under the auspices of SPBILF in Shanghai in 2014.

  • Representatives of 15 states have already registered for the Forum.

  • Official delegation from Kazakhstan confirmed attendance of the IV SPBILF.

  • We are pleased to inform you that the partner hotels of the Forum offer special prices for accommodation! We’d strongly recommend you to book rooms in advance: during the Wight Nights hotels are usually overcrowded.

Coming in the next issue:

In the next issue of the digest on January 29 we will present you the interview with Elena Borisenko, Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, as well as commentary by Oleg Shilokhvost, Judge of the Supreme Commercial Court of the Russian Federation, on recent novels in the Civil code of the Russian Federation. In the Articles section you will find unique material on strategy of working with different generations of lawyers within the same company and the commentary on the article with due regard to the Russian reality by Mark Rozin, President of the Ecopsy Consulting.