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Today in Russian Business – Feb 18, 2011

Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has, according to Reuters, said that the 2011 parliamentary and the 2012 presidential elections needed to be ‘fair and honest’ if support for economic reforms is to be gained.  Kudrin has also pointed out that direct foreign investment in the Russian economy fell dramatically in 2010.  Will Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin’s new plans to introduce criminal punishment for legal entities attract or repel foreign investors?  The Economist considers what the eagerness to buy up a bit of VTB says about the domestic banking industry.  Billionaire Alexander Lebedev has sold 15% of his National Reserve Bank to his son Evgeny, in an apparent attempt to safeguard assets from Russian government officials after raids at his bank in Moscow.  Investigators claim to have found $440 million illegally obtained from the Bank of Moscow in the personal bank account of Inteko head and wife of ex-Mayor Yury Luzhkov, Yelena Baturina.  French authorities have reportedly impounded two yachts worth an estimated $20 million, believed to belong to exiled Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky, ‘as part of an ongoing criminal investigation against him’.  Just four years on from an Alpine pimping scandal, Mikhail Prokhorov will be crowned with France’s Legion of Honor.  It is reported that AstraZeneca will invest more than $150 million in the construction of a drug manufacturing plant in Russia; Reuters has an overview of the expanding presence of international pharmaceutical companies on Russian soil.