The financial press is awash with the concerned reactions of economists and financial strategists regarding the departure of Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, well-trusted by Western investors. ‘Putin’s return to president was fully priced in whereas Kudrin’s potential departure is a key area of concern’, says one analyst quoted by Bloomberg. His absence from Russia’s next government would be ‘a body blow,’ says Tim Ash, head of emerging-market strategy at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc. ‘Kudrin’s departure is just another brick in the wall separating Russia from investors, and that wall is getting higher’. His exit couldn’t have come at a worse time, says the FT, ‘as Russia contends with capital flight, turmoil on financial markets and growing oil-price risks’. In a video interview for the Washington Post, Andrey Kostin, chairman of VTB Group, says Russia is not ‘directly exposed’ to the banking crisis in Europe. Top EU officials have warned that Russia must expedite its joining of the World Trade Organization before ‘WTO-skeptic’ Vladimir Putin wins the next presidential elections next year. ‘Being kicked off such a commission means losing access to the president and prime minister, which billionaires in Russia need to maintain their wealth‘: on Mikhail Prohkorov’s descent from grace, which accelerated yesterday with his ousting from the economic modernization commission. Coca-Cola Co. and Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company SA apparently plan to extend their push into emerging markets by investing $3 billion in Russia over the next five years.