In considering applications for recognition and enforcement of a foreign court judgment, the commercial courts of the Russian Federation traditionally rely on Article 241(1) of the Arbitrazh Procedural Code (the “APC”), which states that foreign judgments can be recognized and enforced in Russia “if recognition and enforcement of such judgments is provided for by an international treaty of the Russian Federation or federal law.”
The Russian Federation is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards of 1958 (the “New York Convention”), thus making the foreign arbitral award enforcement process in Russia relatively straightforward. However, there is no such applicable “global” treaty for enforcing foreign court judgments in Russia. On the recognition and enforcement of foreign court judgments, the Russian Federation is party to multilateral treaties with nine other CIS countries and has also entered into bilateral treaties with nearly 40 other countries*.
Traditionally, Russian courts have interpreted the APC Article 241(1) provision rather formally and considered that recognition and enforcement of a foreign judgment is only possible where there exists a treaty between the Russian Federation and the relevant state that expressly provides for mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments. However, several decisions have recently emerged in which the Russian courts have taken a less strict approach in their recognition and enforcement analysis and have held that a judgment, executed in a state that itself enforces Russian judgments, should be enforceable in Russia,subject only to the limited defenses set out in Article 244 of the APC.
The below discussion of two enforcement cases from foreign jurisdictions, with regard to the same subject matter, illustrates some of the central factors the Russian courts consider in their enforceability analysis in the absence of a treaty on foreign judgment recognition and enforcement as well as the courts’ divergent approach to the conflicting judgments.
In the English Judgment case, the Russian courts reinforce the “pro-enforcement” stance towards foreign court judgments, favoring enforcement not only on the basis of international treaties but also in recognition of the international law principles of reciprocity and comity. This “pro-enforcement” stance is a positive sign for entities seeking enforcement of foreign judgments in Russia, and it also provides further support to those seeking enforcement of Russian judgments abroad on the basis of reciprocity.
However, uncertainty remains. In the Initial French Judgment case, it is clear that the courts do not categorically apply the principle of reciprocity and comity in the absence of international treaties on foreign judgment enforcement.
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