Gorbachev offers shared rewards for bold investors: Former Soviet leader presses case for taking a risk in Russia

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Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader, yesterday pledged to help British business become involved in rebuilding the Russian economy, holding out the promise of jobs and orders for those companies prepared to take the risk of investing.

His Gorbachev Foundation has forged an informal link with the Confederation of British Industry to assist firms looking for joint-venture partners and business opportunities in Russia.

Speaking after a briefing for senior business executives at the CBI's headquarters in London, Mr Gorbachev said that the West could do business with Russia despite the political turmoil.

It was, he said, a vast country with vast problems, and needed modernising.

'We are inviting businesses to Russia not for charity but on the basis of mutual benefit.'

The task of modernising the economy and converting its defence industries into civil production would require plant and machinery from the West that would in turn help to create jobs.

Mr Gorbachev warned of the risks, however. 'Something of real concern is the possibility of a major conflict between the republics, particularly between Russia and the Ukraine, that would create problems for business.'

Howard Davies, the CBI's director-general, described the briefing as useful and practical.

'Trade opportunities in Russia for British companies are expanding rapidly, especially in the regions away from Moscow,' he said. 'But companies need to be aware of the risks and problems involved - financial, operational and cultural.'

Mr Gorbachev, who later met the Prime Minister, John Major, for lunch at Downing Street, said he would vote in this Sunday's elections in Russia even though they were 'verging on hoax'.

He had still not made up his mind whom to vote for, but it would not be reactionary fundamenalists or 'the kind of Bolsheviks we have in the Kremlin now'.

(Photograph omitted)