Sanctions-hit Kremlin stages elite-less ‘Russian Davos’, Putin speaks on Friday

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Flags bearing the logo of the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) fly near Saint Isaac’s Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, Russia June 14, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

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  • International Economic Forum from June 15 to 18 in Saint Petersburg
  • No Western bigwigs at ‘Russian Davos’ due to sanctions
  • Putin will give a big speech on June 17 and address the media – help

June 14 (Reuters) – Russia has for years hosted world leaders and business titans at its annual economic forum in St Petersburg, but the “Russian Davos” will see few of the global financial elite this year, Moscow being isolated by sanctions for its actions in Ukraine.

This week, to make up for the lack of big Western participants, Russia is giving pride of place to smaller players or to countries like China – the world’s second largest economy – which have not joined the sanctions.

“Foreign investors don’t just come from the United States and the European Union,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday, citing the Middle East and Asia.

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President Vladimir Putin will deliver an important speech on Friday on the international economic situation and Russia’s tasks in the near future, Interfax news agency quoted Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov as saying.

He will also meet the media on the sidelines of the forum around 8:00 p.m. Moscow time (1600 GMT) that day, he said.

The Kremlin launched the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in 1997 to attract foreign investment, discuss economic policy, and project the image that it was open for business after the fall of the Soviet regime.

Russia has long compared SPIEF to the World Economic Forum, the annual blue ribbon event for global figures held in the Swiss alpine resort of Davos.

Now that Western leaders are avoiding relations with Russia, Putin will no longer have a traditional meeting with political players and corporate bigwigs from the United States and Europe.

There were no names of US and European companies or their CEOs on the schedule released for SPIEF for June 15-18 – reflecting fears of sanctions under the most sweeping sanctions regime ever imposed on a major power. .

Even companies that have hung on in Russia despite the general exodus of Western investors have not been listed.

Ushakov said high-level delegations from more than 40 countries were expected, while 1,244 Russian companies and 265 foreign companies had confirmed their attendance.

In an exception to the absence of Western figures, the head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia along with his French and Italian counterparts will speak on Thursday in a session titled “Western Investors in Russia: New Reality.”

TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS

Russia’s relations with the West have turned toxic since it sent armored forces to Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it calls a “special military operation” to eliminate threats to its security. Ukraine and its Western supporters call Russia’s actions an unprovoked invasion aimed at seizing territory.

SPIEF will therefore look and feel very different.

After hosting then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel, ex-IMF chief Christine Lagarde, Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein, Citi’s Vikram Pandit and ExxonMobil’s Rex Tillerson, Russia will this week star the presidents from the allied states of Kazakhstan and Armenia.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will address the meeting via video link, RIA news agency quoted Ushakov as saying.

As foreign companies write billions off their once-promising Russian investments, domestic corporations and banks are rushing to take over companies left behind. Read more

“Sanctions are long term. Globalization as it was has come to an end,” Andrey Kostin, CEO of sanctioned bank VTB, Russia’s second largest, told the RBC business daily.

“NEW OPPORTUNITIES IN A NEW WORLD”

In years past, SPIEF sessions focused on investment-oriented topics such as privatization by Moscow and initial public offerings (IPOs).

This year, the official title of SPIEF is “New Opportunities in a New World”. Topics for the sessions include new opportunities for Russian economic growth, improving trade with the five non-Western BRICS powers, and the future of Russia’s sanctioned financial sector.

Another session – “A new form of international cooperation: how will payments be made?” – discusses Russia’s ejection from the SWIFT global payment system and its decision to circumvent the ban by demanding payment for gas exports in rubles. It will have speakers from allies Cuba and Venezuela as well as Turkey and Egypt, which have also avoided sanctions.

There will be a session on “fake news” – a panel attended by state media, the attorney general’s office and the Foreign Ministry as Moscow pursues an information war with the West.

Other countries sending officials to attend or speak via video link include China, Belarus, Central African Republic, India, Iran, Nicaragua, Serbia and the United Arab Emirates.

Some attendees have requested that their employers’ names not be printed on their personal badges, RBC reported, citing Rosgoncress, the state-owned forum organizer.

“Money loves silence like never before,” said Denis Denisov, director of the Russian branch of international consultancy EM.

($1 = 57.4500 rubles)

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Reuters Montage reporting by Mark Heinrich and Grant McCool

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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