‘He is, no doubt, one of the best specialists not only in Russia but also the world […] He is a friend of ours and a personal friend of mine’: Vladimir Putin has assured attendees of an investment forum that trusted ex-Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin will remain on ‘the team’, though he did not specify in what capacity. At the conference, the Prime Minister apparently sought to reassure investors that whilst Europe may be battling a sovereign debt crisis, Moscow is better prepared to cope than it was before the global crash of 2008. He spoke of economic changes coming in ‘evolutionary’ form, rather than via major upheavals. According to the Washington Post, the Prime Minister pledged that the reinvigoration of Russian industry was a more important goal than WTO membership. He also apparently commented that if the US and the EU wished to welcome Russia into the free-market organization, they should help overcome objections put forth by Georgia. Could Russia have some lessons for Europe and the US? Billionaire investor George Soros said the meltdown of the global financial markets remind him of the final years of the Soviet Union. Russia and Venezuela have reportedly signed an agreement on a $4 billion loan for the Latin American partner to buy Russian weaponry. Boris Berezovsky has told London’s High Court that corruption in Russia is worse now than in the 1990s. Of the ongoing court battle between the exiled tycoon and Roman Abramovich, the Economist says: ‘as in a nasty divorce, the parties seem willing to accept embarrassing disclosures about their own conduct in the hope of humiliating the other side more’. Alexei Mordashov, chief executive of Severstal, wants to build up his company’s business in the US, despite his decision in March to sell at a loss three US plants that were acquired just three years earlier. Evraz Group has ended talks on the potential sale of its 40% stake in coal producer Raspadskaya.