Putin may make rare appearance at World Economic Forum in Davos

Russian President Vladimir Putin may attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Switzerland, the Kremlin has hinted on Wednesday. Putin has not attended the prestigious business and political meeting since 2009.

“There is an old, constantly renewed invitation for Putin to come to Davos,” presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists. He added that the final decision has not been made so far but “nothing is excluded” and the visit by the Russian president is being considered.

Last week the White House announced that US President Donald Trump will head to Davos for the second year in a row. It would thus be a rare opportunity for the leaders of Russia and the US to meet for the first time in 2019. Their last planned tete-a-tete talks on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina were canceled by the US side citing the confrontation between Russian and Ukrainian navy in the Kerch Strait. Instead, Putin and Trump had a brief conversation that lasted 10 to 15 minutes.

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“We really welcome the change of climate in Davos,” the Kremlin spokesman said, referring to the recent WEF decision not to bar sanctioned Russian businessmen from coming to the forum in January.

In November, reports emerged claiming that Viktor Vekselberg, the owner of Renova group, aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska, and the head of VTB Bank Andrey Kostin would not be allowed to attend the 2019 Davos meeting due to US sanctions. Back then Moscow lambasted the possible ban and threatened to boycott the forum on the state level.

The WEF change of heart came earlier this month. Its managing director and head of compliance, Alois Zwinggi, said he is pleased to learn that Moscow would be sending “a high-level governmental delegation to Davos.”

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On Wednesday, the official Russian residence at the WEF – the Davos Russia House – revealed its official program for the 2019 event, which is to run on January 21-25. It is scheduled to begin with the session headlined “Russia – One Step Ahead” to discuss prospects of Russia’s further technological growth. It will also include some new topics, such as the implementation of artificial intelligence in urban spaces. The Davos Russia House will also host sessions headlined “Russia: DNA of the New Entrepreneur,” “The Silver Economy – Realizing the Potential of Economic Growth,” and “Call for Collaboration: Private Sector vs Cybercrime.”

Putin spoke at the WEF opening ceremony when he served as Russia’s prime minister back in 2009 as the world was reeling from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. In 2011, then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev addressed the participants of the forum.

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