Putin welcomes business leaders to St. Petersburg forum, touts Russia as open for dialogue

In a statement released by the Kremlin, Putin welcomed participants to the 27th edition of the forum, a major annual convention that aims to connect Russian companies with potential foreign investors and partners.

Russian President Vladimir Putin extended greetings Monday to business leaders and officials gathered for the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, portraying Russia as open for constructive cooperation despite its confrontation with the West.

In a statement released by the Kremlin, Putin welcomed participants to the 27th edition of the forum, a major annual convention that aims to connect Russian companies with potential foreign investors and partners.

The rhetoric contrasts with Russia’s increasing isolation and economic turmoil following its invasion of Ukraine over a year ago. Moscow’s military campaign has sparked sweeping sanctions from the United States, Europe and other allies, severely restricting trade and business ties.

Major Western companies and investors have abandoned the Russian market since the invasion began in February 2022. The exodus has left the St. Petersburg forum, often touted as Russia’s answer to the World Economic Forum in Davos, devoid of many prominent international attendees.

Instead, this year’s convention is expected to focus more on relationships with the remaining partners and allies that have refused to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine, such as China.

In his remarks, Putin insisted Russia is working to create “optimal conditions” for investment in the country and welcomed new cooperative ties at different levels.

He also expressed hope the forum would make an important contribution to the strengthening of mutually beneficial business ties and the promotion of promising joint projects.

While maintaining its defiant stance, the Kremlin is keen to project economic stability and cooperation opportunities amid domestic pressures from the war’s costs. However, much of the world remains deeply distrustful of doing business with Putin’s Russia.