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It is no surprise to anyone who has worked there that bribery is part of the construction process in Russia. Certainly in the 1990s it was commonplace for developers to hand brown envelopes full of cash to local authority officials in order to obtain building permits.

In one area of Moscow, all buildings had to be a shade of yellow. The developer, however, wanted pale blue. The official concerned was very keen on 19th-century poetry, and after a set of beautifully bound antique volumes of Russian poetry was presented to her, the developer got his blue building.

Richard Bossons, Henley-on-Thames

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