Today in Russian Business – March 31, 2009

After the World Bank’s report was published yesterday, warning that the financial crisis could push 5.8 million Russians into poverty, the ruble fell to its lowest rate in ten days.  The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs has criticized the government’s plan for dealing with the financial crisis.  ‘The measures recommended by the government are for a sprint, when in fact we’ll have to run a marathon,’ they said.  Vladimir Putin’s promise of funds for AvtoVAZ was presented during a visit to factory workers in Tolyatti, and his morale-boosting session with them has been transcribed on the Kremlin’s website.  The Kremlin has pledged $1 billion overall to its auto industry, in order to counter a forecasted decline of over 60% this year.  The State could put $2.1 billion toward domestic dairies and meat producers to reduce dependence on imports and ‘come out of this year with a greater volume of domestically produced milk and meat,’ says First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov – meanwhile the National Meat Association says consumption will drop 20% this year.  Russia’s hopes for reviving its domestic steel market are looking bleak, says the Asia Times.  Why did Mikhail Prokhorov agree to forgive $2 billion of debt owed to him by Rusal, wonders Forbes magazine, which may be sued by Alexander Lebedev for reporting that he lost $2.5bn in the global financial crisis.