THE three-day St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Moscow’s answer to the World Economic Forum, at Davos, wrapped up June 18. Though Russia and its companies have signed hundreds of agreements worth tens of billions of dollars with foreign firms at the forum in recent years, participation by European and US firms had fallen off sharply because of Western-Russian tensions stemming from the Ukraine crisis. Now, however, many Western government officials and business leaders have returned, even though US sanctions remain in place and EU sanctions are likely to be renewed in the coming weeks. Sanctions dominated the discussion at this year’s forum. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy argued June 16 that all sanctions against Russia should be lifted. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker responded that more progress is needed in the Minsk negotiations between Ukraine and Russia before that can happen. For their part, Russian politicians such as Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and economic adviser Alexei Kudrin hinted that talks with European representatives at the forum led them to believe that most sanctions will be eased by the beginning of 2017. A Western thaw Royal Dutch/Shell signed a deal with Russian natural gas giant Gazprom that might see it… Read full this story
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