Universal PicturesInternational (UPI) is taking its home entertainment operations into Russia, acountry widely seen as one of the major sources of video piracy.

It has set up a wholly-ownedaffiliate covering Russia and the CIS that will handle all the titles that werepreviously distributed through licensees.

The operation is headed bymanaging director Egor Borisov, withKrasilshikova as marketing director, Nelly Romanovskaya finance directorand Roman Sergeev joins as sales director. The team, which has many years ofexperience in western-owned consumer goods firms, reports to London-based WayneBorg, vice-president of Latin America/Asia Pacific.

Universal Pictures Russiahas set The Bourne Supremacy, which is partly set in Moscow, as itsfirst title. It will be released in mid-March.

UPI acknowledges that highlevels of piracy "presents both a challenge and an opportunity to the newbusiness". But it says that it isconfident that a local Russian subsidiary will increase the local consumer awarenessof and government focus on reducing piracy rates.

"We are breaking new groundhere by taking a leadership position in Russia. There is a tremendous opportunity and a burgeoning consumerdemand for Universal's DVD product. Weplan to fully penetrate the market", said Borisov.

Peter Smith, president ofUPI, said, "We plan to implement our strategic goals of expanding localacquisitions activity in the region and strengthening our rental andsell-through business in these markets".