Deputy Economic Development Minister Andrei Klepach has suggested that the ruble could return to its 2008 high and reach 23 against the dollar next year, if oil prices continue going strong, spelling problems for exporters. The Duma has passed the budget in a first vote, with it receiving 315 votes to go with United Russia’s 315 deputies. Vladimir Putin has met with business leaders from Germany, its biggest trading partner: German businesses are apparently faring well in Russia, despite the crisis. President Medvedev is apparently confident that Russia’s hopes to join the WTO have not been jeopardized by its dalliance with the idea of a three-party customs union bid. First Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank, Gennady Melikyan, has told Reuters that financial institutions are weathering stress tests well, although a report in Bloomberg puts on different spin, quoting Melikyan as saying that with limited access to credit, ‘the situation isn’t ideal’. Why Rusal’s decision to list in Hong Kong is out of the ordinary. VTB has exceeded analyst expectations with a net loss of $375 million in the second quarter of 2009.