Figureheads of the Russian music industry have weighed in on the exclusive licensing agreement struck between Warner Music International and Russian independent music firm Nikitin.

As previously reported, the arrangement enables Nikitin to manufacture, market and distribute WMI's physical product in Russia and every country in the Commonwealth of Independent States except Ukraine.

Nikitin organized a press conference yesterday, which was attended by the company's CEO Alexei Nikitin, IFPI director for Russia Igor Pozhitkov, Warner Chappell Russia head Maxim Dmitriev and Andrei Makarevich, frontman of one of Russia's longest-running and most popular rock bands, Mashina Vremeni (Time Machine). Piracy dominated the commentary.

"We hope that the arrival of WMI will be a milestone in development in the Russian recorded music market and an increase in the share of legal sales," said Pozhitkov.

Dmitriev hailed Nikitin's new role and said that the company "adheres to the rules of the legal market in terms of copyrights and allied rights in the CIS."

He added, "This means that it will be easier to provide for the interests of our copyright holders."

Makarevich noted that the partnership was a "major step towards integrating the Russian market into the international music business, which is long overdue." He continued, "I have felt the effect of piracy on my own hide for decades, and I see that our government acts on it only in reaction to international pressure. This deal will offer serious alternative to pirate product."

With effect from Feb. 19, Nikitin has authority to print and press Cyrillic Russian versions of WMI discs, using only IFPI-approved plants. The Russian firm will also import premium-priced international CD and DVD product for high-end retail. Nikitin will also exclusively collate public performance fees for Warner Music's recordings from the IFPI approved collection society, the Russian Phonographic Association. Nikitin did not disclose the contract's term of validity.