- International Economic Forum June 15-18 in St. Petersburg
- There are no prominent Western figures in the “Russian Davos” because of the sanctions
- Putin delivers a grand speech June 17, talk to the media – assistant
June 14 (Reuters) – Russia has for years hosted world leaders and business giants at its annual economic forum in St Petersburg, but “Russia’s Davos” will see little in the world’s financial elite this year as Moscow is isolated by sanctions for its actions in Ukraine. .
This week, to make up for the lack of key Western presence, Russia is giving the spotlight to smaller players or countries like China – the world’s second-largest economy – that have not joined the sanctions.
“Foreign investors are not only from the United States and the European Union,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday, referring to the Middle East and Asia.
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Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying that President Vladimir Putin will deliver a keynote address on Friday focusing on the international economic situation and Russia’s tasks in the near future.
He said he will also meet with the media on the sidelines of the forum at around 8 pm Moscow time (1600 GMT) that day.
The Kremlin launched the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in 1997 to attract foreign investment, discuss economic policy and project the image it was open to business after the demise of Soviet rule.
Russia has long compared SPIEF to the World Economic Forum, the annual blue ribbon event for global VIPs that takes place in the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos.
Now, with Western leaders shying away from Russia, Putin will no longer hold traditional meetings with the political movement, rockers, and dignitaries from the United States and Europe.
There were no names of US and European companies or their executives in the timeline published on 15-18 June (SPIEF) – reflecting fears of retribution under the most comprehensive sanctions regime ever imposed on a great power.
Even companies that have survived in Russia despite the exodus of Western investors are not included.
Ushakov said high-level delegations from more than 40 countries are expected to attend while 1,244 Russian companies and 265 foreign companies have confirmed that they will be there.
In one exception to the absence of Western dignitaries, the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia will speak alongside his French and Italian counterparts at Thursday’s session titled “Western Investors in Russia: A New Reality.”
Russia’s relations with the West have turned toxic since it sent armored forces to Ukraine on February 24 in what it described as a “special military operation” to remove threats to its security. Ukraine and its Western backers describe Russia’s actions as an unprovoked land grab.
So SPIEF will look and feel very different.
Having once greeted — then-German chancellor Angela Merkel, former IMF chief Christine Lagarde, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Vikram Pandit of Citi and Rex Tillerson of ExxonMobil — Russia will give its highest bill this week to heads of state, allied Kazakhstan and Armenia.
And the RIA news agency quoted Ushakov as saying that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi will deliver a speech at the meeting via a video link.
With foreign companies writing down billions of their once-promising Russian investments, local companies and banks are rushing to take over the businesses they left behind. Read more
Andrei Kostin, CEO of VTB Bank, Russia’s second-largest bank, told RBC Business daily: “The sanctions are long-term. Globalization is over as it was before.”
New opportunities in a new world
In years past, SPIEF sessions will focus on investment-oriented topics such as privatization by Moscow and initial public offerings (IPOs).
This year’s official SPIEF title is “New Opportunities in a New World”. Topics of sessions include new possibilities for Russian economic growth, improved 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 the payments be made?” It deals with Russia’s expulsion from the global SWIFT payment system and its move to circumvent the embargo by demanding payments for gas exports in rubles. It will have speakers from Cuba and Venezuela, allies of Turkey and Egypt, which have also waived sanctions.
There will be a session on “Fake News” – a panel attended by state media, the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Foreign Ministry as Moscow pursues a media war with the West.
Other countries that are sending officials to attend or speak there via video link are China, Belarus, Central African Republic, India, Iran, Nicaragua, Serbia and the United Arab Emirates.
Some participants requested that employers’ names not be printed on their personal badges, RBC reported, citing the state-run company Rosgoncress, which organizes the forum.
“Money loves silence now more than ever,” said Denis Denisov, head of the Russian branch of international consulting firm EM.
(1 dollar = 57.4500 rubles)
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(Reporting by Reuters Editing by Mark Heinrich and Grant McCall)
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