As might be expected in a country where managers are autocratic in style, meetings are often for the purpose of information dissemination, rather than for the open debate of current business issues. Formal meetings are often held to ratify decisions which have been made elsewhere and to give clear instruction on key tasks to be performed.
Any open debate on the issues in hand will have been undertaken elsewhere in either one-to-one meetings or in smaller groups. It is in these 'background' meetings where much of the real debate is undertaken. Without access to these meetings, it can be very difficult to influence the flow of events and it is only through cultivating very close relationships that an outsider will ever be invited into these inner cabals.
Formal meetings tend to be very structural and serious. The dour image associated with many Russian negotiators stems from the belief that a formal meeting is a serious affair and should be treated accordingly. Humour is seldom used in such serious situations.