Sunday, June 04, 2023
The Kremlin has announced that journalists from "unfriendly countries" will not be permitted to attend the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), a major event showcasing the Russian economy to global investors, which President Vladimir Putin has often used as a platform.
The SPIEF, held in St Petersburg, the former imperial capital, has been held since 1997 and is considered by many as Russia's equivalent of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
This is the first time Western journalists have been universally banned from attending the forum. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the decision, stating that "publications from unfriendly countries" would not be accredited for the SPIEF. Peskov further clarified that the ban applied to journalists representing countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia due to the conflict in Ukraine.
The move comes after Reuters' Moscow bureau received notice from forum organisers on Friday that their journalists' accreditations had been revoked, despite previously being confirmed on Thursday. Reuters has sought written clarification on the matter, but no response has been received as of yet.
During the 2000s, when Russia experienced a booming economy, major Western investors and investment bankers eagerly participated in the forum, seeking opportunities amidst the country's rapid growth under Putin's leadership. However, in recent years, Chinese and Arab investors have become more prominent at the event. Last year, Saudi Arabia's energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, held talks with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak at the forum.
Putin, a former KGB spy with ties to St Petersburg, has expressed a shift in Russia's focus towards China and Asian powers, attributing this move to what he perceives as an economic and hybrid war waged by the West against Russia. Putin emphasised the importance of international events like the SPIEF, stating that they foster closer ties between nations and facilitate the sharing of experiences and groundbreaking achievements in science and technology.
The upcoming forum, scheduled for June 14-17, will proceed without the participation of Western journalists from the designated "unfriendly countries."