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Today in Russian Business – Dec 29, 2008

In trading on Monday, the Russian ruble again fell to a record low against the euro as the Central Bank again widened the band to loosen its defense of the currency.  State bank Vnesheconombank (VEB) spent $26 billion on infrastructure projects in 2008, designed to help small- and medium-sized business growth.  Worldwide steel production is expected to suffer its biggest decline in 60 years, with a big reduction in orders hitting Russia’s Severstal – the company has idled a blast furnace at its Cherepovets Steel Mill because of weak demand.  Mikhail Prokhorov has announced that he may increase his stake in Rusal to 19% in lieu of receiving payments from the debt-burdened group, which could cause another shake up between Oleg Deripaska, Vladimir Potanin, and the government.  In light of struggles face by the national airline, Aeroflot, the government has announced plans to launch a second, competing state-owned airline – a controversial proposal which puts great pressure on the largest individual owner, Alexander Lebedev.