Today in Russian Business – Feb 5th, 2009

Russia has just become the first of the G8 nations to have its credit rating downgraded by Fitch since the start of the financial crisis, and many predict that its economy will grind to a halt this year.  The Independent suggests some reasons for the downgrade.  Alexei Kudrin, at a meeting in London, announced that the Kremlin would make $40 billion available to its banks ‘with the condition that the funds will be passed on to the real economy’, sparking speculation that Russia may be forced into a formal devaluation of the ruble.  Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov indicated that the rescue package would be carved in part by cutting funds for infrastructure programs.  German Gref, the Chairman of Sberbank, says that state-funded orders will not make up for the fall in private demand.  State-controlled bank VEB has agreed to open a $3 billion credit line for up to 10 years to Kazakh state welfare fund Samruk-Kazyna.  Vladimir Putin wants to crack down on companies who ‘circumvent the law’s provisions and evade clearance for deals with strategic assets’ by removing legal loopholes.  Aeroflot has found itself in the midst of another scandal after passengers on one flight refused to let their pilot fly, convinced that he was drunk