©Reuters. Flags with the logo of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) waved near Saint Isaac’s Cathedral on June 14, 2022 in St. Petersburg, Russia. REUTERS / Maxim Shemetov
(Reuters) -Russia has for years hosted world leaders and trade titans at its annual economic forum in St Petersburg, but the ‘Russian Davos’ will see little from the global financial elite this year as Moscow is isolated by sanctions over its actions in Ukraine .
To make up for the lack of big western players, Russia this week favors smaller players or countries like China – the world’s second largest economy – which 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, citing the Middle East and Asia.
President Vladimir Putin will deliver a major speech on Friday that will focus on the international economic situation and Russia’s role in the near future, the Interfax news agency reported, citing Kremlin official Yuri Ushakov.
He will also meet with the media around 20:00 Moscow time (1600 GMT) that day, he said.
The Kremlin created the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in 1997 to attract foreign investment, discuss economic policies, and create an image open to business after the end of Soviet rule.
Russia has long compared SPIEF to the World Economic Forum, an annual blue-ribbon event for global VIPs held in the Swiss alpine resort of Davos.
Now that Western leaders are avoiding talks with Russia, Putin will not have traditional meetings with policymakers and big business from the United States and Europe.
The published SPIEF calendar for June 15-18 did not include the names of American and European companies or their CEOs – reflecting fears of punishment by the most sweeping sanctions regime ever imposed on a major power.
Companies that remained in Russia despite the general exodus of Western investors were also not listed.
Ushakov said high-level delegations from more than 40 countries were expected, with 1,244 Russian and 265 foreign companies confirming their attendance.
Barring the absence of Western officials, the head of the US Chamber of Commerce in Russia will be speaking with French and Italian partners at Thursday’s session entitled “Western Investors in Russia: A New Reality.”
Russia’s relations with the West have been poisoned since it deployed an armored force to Ukraine on February 24 as part of a so-called “military special operation” to eliminate threats to its security. Ukraine and its Western backers characterize Russia’s actions as an unprovoked invasion to seize territory.
SPIEF will therefore look and feel completely different.
Russia, which once housed the then German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former IMF chief Christine Lagarde, Goldman Sachs (NYSE 🙂 and Armenia.
Egyptian President Abdal Fattah al-Sisi will speak at the meeting via video link, the RIA news agency reported, citing Ushakov.
As foreign companies write off billions on their once-promising investments in Russia, domestic companies and banks are rushing to take over the remaining businesses.
“Sanctions are lengthy. Globalization as it used to be is over,” Andrey Kostin, CEO of sanctioned VTB Bank, Russia’s second largest bank, told RBC.
“NEW OPPORTUNITIES IN THE NEW WORLD”
In recent years, SPIEF meetings have focused on investment-oriented issues such as Moscow privatizations and initial public offerings (IPOs).
This year, SPIEF bears the official title “New Opportunities in the New World”. Topics for the meeting include new opportunities for Russia’s economic growth, improved trade with the five non-Western BRICS powers, and the future of Russia’s sanctioned financial sector.
The next session – “A new form of international cooperation: how to make payments?” – concerns Russia’s exclusion from the global SWIFT payment system and its attempt to circumvent the ban by requiring payments for gas exports in rubles. Speakers will speak of allies Cuba and Venezuela, as well as Turkey and Egypt, which have also avoided sanctions.
There will be a “fake news” broadcast – a body involving the state media, the Attorney General’s Office and the State Department – as Moscow wages an information war with the West.
Other countries sending officials to attend or speak via video include China, Belarus, Central African Republic, India, Iran, Nicaragua, Serbia and the United Arab Emirates.
Some participants demanded that their employers’ names not be printed on their personal badges, RBC said, referring to Rosgoncress, the state-owned company that organizes the forum.
“Money loves silence now like never before,” said Denis Denisov, head of the Russian branch of international consulting firm EM.
($1 = 57.4500 rubles)