For years, Russia has hosted world leaders and business titans at its annual economic forum in St. Petersburg. But the “Russian Davos” will see little of the global financial elite this year with Moscow isolated by sanctions over its actions in Ukraine.
From June 15, to compensate for the lack of major Western participants, Russia gives pride of place to small players or countries like China – the world’s second largest economy – which have not adhered to the sanctions.
“Foreign investors don’t just come from the United States and the European Union,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday, referring to the Middle East and Asia.
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 p.m. Moscow time 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 an image open for business after the demise of the Soviet regime.
Russia has long compared SPIEF to the World Economic Forum, the annual blue ribbon event for global personalities held in the Swiss alpine resort of Davos.
Now that Western leaders are shunning relations with Russia, Mr. Putin will no longer have a traditional encounter 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.”
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.
The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) will therefore be very different.
After hosting former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, ex-IMF chief Christine Lagarde, Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein, Citi’s Vikram Pandit and ExxonMobil’s Rex Tillerson, Russia will feature presidents of allied states this week. from Kazakhstan and Armenia.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will address the meeting via video link, the 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.
“The sanctions are for the 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?” – talks about Russia’s ejection from the global payment system SWIFT 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.
The story was reported by Reuters.
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