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Today in Russian Business – Jan 12, 2010

On its first day of trading in 2010, the ruble strengthened the most in more than ten years against the dollar and the MICEX soared as oil reached $83 a barrel.  The New York Times suggests that the boom can be partly attributed to the long holidays, during which oil prices grew, coming to an end.  The Finance Ministry apparently spent nearly 3 billion rubles on shoring up the budget deficit in 2009.  Apparently Prime Minister Putin has agreed to permit oligarchs to be present at government meetings, following complaints that union leaders have more access to politicians than employers do.  President Medvedev has instructed employers to keep wage arrears under control.  Rusal has said that lenders support a pay package for Chief Executive Officer Oleg Deripaska which would give the indebted oligarch a yearly base salary of $10 million.  The Independent International Investment Research Plc. has given the stamp of ‘avoid’ to Rusal’s Hong Kong initial public offering, citing its colossal debts.  But maybe default isn’t such a problem for the new economic climate, Konstantin Sonin points out in an op-ed in the Moscow Times.  Long-favored in the West, apparently Russia may be about to introduce its own cash-for-clunkers scheme.