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Russian Land Grab?

Are foreigners getting the shaft as Russia reforms its land code? It may look like it. The country's new land reform law bars foreigners from outright ownership of farmland, instead permitting them only to lease such property. That provision was lobbied for by domestic agribusiness interests who are snapping up choice parcels of land. "We need a temporary advantage to become as strong as [potential] foreign competitors," says a Moscow agribusiness executive.

Still, determined foreigners should not be too concerned. Similar restrictions on sales of domestic shares of gas giant Gazprom have easily been evaded through gray schemes crafted by lawyers. In the agricultural sector, Russian-registered companies owned by offshore foreign interests are now likely to proliferate, lawyers say. EDITED BY Edited by Rose Brady

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