Today in Russian Business – April 6, 2010

Russia’s economy expanded last quarter for the first time since 2008, and inflation is at a 12-year low.  Kazakhstan and Belarus may pull out of a pact with Russia, designed to boost trade and the WTO accession process, after both saw price rises in areas that the pact was supposed to control.  Venezuela could spend more than $5 billion on Russian arms on top of the $4.4 billion it has already spent in the last five years, and much more than expected.  According to Vladimir Putin, the funds will be distributed across thirteen company contracts.  Nobel laureate physicist Zhores Alfyorov has accepted an offer to lead scientific research at Russia’s answer to Silicon Valley in Skolkovo, and will appoint himself a foreign co-chair.  The high-tech business park could get ‘unprecedented privileges‘ to speed its development.  A rise in steel prices has boosted profits for Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel Works, which posted fourth quarter net profits of $219 million, and Novolipetsk Steel has plans to spend more than $4 billion boosting output over the next three years, anticipating a recovery in global demand.  The central bank has shifted the ruble’s floating trade band as the currency rises.