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Nintendo Russia CEO running import company to skirt official sales ban - report

UPDATE: Controversial boss still employed, Nintendo confirms.

UPDATE 14/4/22 5.30pm UK: In response to further questions from Eurogamer, Nintendo has confirmed that its controversial Russian boss Yasha Haddazhi is still employed at the company.

This is despite the fact Haddazhi is also now running Achivka, which was recently involved in the import and sale of Metroid Prime Remastered copies to the country. As a reminder, Nintendo stated in March 2022 that it had ended product shipments to the region.

"Mr Haddaji remains in a temporary administrative capacity to fulfil various internal administrative functions while winding down the company," a Nintendo spokesperson told Eurogamer.

On Nintendo's previous statement it was not affiliated with companies involved in the importation of Nintendo products with Russia - despite also considering Achivka for future involvement in a repair and warranty service - Nintendo provided the following statement:

"Nintendo is not affiliated with Achivka and has no involvement in parallel import activities in Russia. Currently, Achivka is only a potential supplier of repair and warranty service for Nintendo products that had already been sold in the Russian market. For any enquiries related to the operations of LLC Achivka, please contact them directly."

The suggestion here seems to be that Nintendo had no involvement in Achivka's import and sale of Metroid Prime Remastered - that Haddazhi had acted on his own, despite being a Nintendo employee.

UPDATE 13/4/22 5.30pm UK: Nintendo has issued Eurogamer a detailed statement which serves as an update on the company's operations in Russia.

In short, Nintendo states it has largely wound down its Russian operation save for necessary "legal, contractual and administrative requirements". Moscow-based employees had their "contracts ended by mutual agreement", though the status of its local boss Yasha Haddazhi is not made specifically clear.

Indeed, Nintendo confirms here that it is eyeing up Achivka, Haddazhi's new company, as a business partner - though its suggestion is that this is to "honour preceding commitments" to customers and supply a "repair and warranty service" for existing Nintendo products already sold in the country.

On the matter of Achivka importing new Nintendo products, such as the recently-released Metroid Prime Remastered, Nintendo states it is "aware" of companies doing so, but is "not affiliated with such companies and has no involvement in parallel import activities in Russia".

It's a seemingly contradictory statement, as Nintendo acknowledges it is potentially looking to work with Achivka but also claims it has no affiliation with companies that import its products, as Achivka appears to do. Eurogamer has contacted Nintendo to ask for more detail on its relationship with Achivka, and will update if we hear back.

Digital Foundry casts its beady eye over Metroid Prime Remastered.Watch on YouTube

Nintendo's statement on the matter lies below in full:

"In early 2022, Nintendo suspended shipping products to Russia, and placed Nintendo eShop under maintenance following the suspension of transactions in Russian rubles by the payment provider. Following this, and as a result of the economic outlook, Nintendo of Europe has decided to wind down operations of its Russian subsidiary.

"We will maintain a minimal presence in Russia to complete the wind-down process, and to fulfil legal, contractual and administrative requirements. Employees in Moscow received individual compensation packages, and their contracts ended by mutual agreement and with our appreciation for their efforts.

"We continue to investigate solutions to honour preceding commitments to our customers in the Russian market. In this vein and a spirit of transparency, we are in advanced discussions with potential suppliers of repair and warranty service for Nintendo products that had already been sold in the Russian market, with LLC Achivka being one such potential supplier.

"We are aware that several companies in Russia operate parallel imports of goods, including Nintendo products. Nintendo is not affiliated with such companies and has no involvement in parallel import activities in Russia.

"In case our Russian customers have questions regarding our products or services, we continue to encourage them to contact Customer Support."

ORIGINAL STORY 13/4/22 12pm UK: The controversial boss of Nintendo's Russian division has reportedly set up a secondary company to import and sell Nintendo games, skirting the Super Mario maker's official Russian sales ban.

Nintendo officially halted product shipments to Russia in March 2022, and said its decision would remain in place for the "forseeable future". Nintendo also shut down its digital eShop in the region, citing "the suspension of transactions in Rubles by the payment provider".

Now, a report by Russian outlet Kommersant has highlighted the recent sale of Metroid Prime Remastered in Russia by a company named Achivka, which has been set up by Nintendo Russia boss Yasha Haddazhi to import Nintendo games and consoles to Russian game stores.

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The report states that Achivka was founded by Haddazji in December 2022, and he is its majority owner. Another Nintendo Russia employee, corporate events manager Ksenia Kachalova, is listed as a minority owner. Achivka's listed legal address is also the same as Nintendo's Russian headquarters.

While it is legal in Russia for anyone to import goods without the manufacturer's approval, the report raises questions over Nintendo's involvement with Achivka, and the extent to which it was aware it was importing Nintendo products into Russia, and being run by its local branch CEO.

Nintendo did not respond to a request for comment by Kommersant. Eurogamer has contacted Nintendo itself for more information, and to ask whether Nintendo believes it appropriate its most senior Russian employee is involved.

This isn't the first time Nintendo's controversial Russian boss has hit the headlines. In 2018, Nintendo confirmed to Eurogamer it was investigating Haddaji's conduct after footage of him verbally abusing hosts of a Mario Kart stream was widely-shared online.

Russian Nintendo fans called for Haddaji to be removed, though the company ultimately let Haddaji off with a slapped wrist.

"Going forward, Nintendo of Europe will be providing more resources to Nintendo Russia to support their efforts to bring Nintendo products and experiences to Russian players," Nintendo said in a 2019 statement, having finished its investigation.

"We want to ensure that the conduct of all our employees is in line with Nintendo's company values, and we remain committed to upholding these standards in the future."

Nintendo sits among a long list of other video games companies which have abandoned Russia for the time being, including Microsoft, PlayStation, EA, CD Projekt, Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, and Take-Two.