Russia's international economic forum to be far smaller than last year but moves forward

Moscow: Organisers of Russia's showpiece investment gathering are telling foreign participants to be sure to bring cash not necessarily for making investments, but for spending money. With Russia under wide sanctions after sending troops into Ukraine, most foreign bank cards don't work in the country.

The advice for those at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, which starts Wednesday and runs through Saturday, is a quiet acknowledgment of the economic difficulties Russia faces as it tries to promote itself to international businesses.

The attendance list is another sign of Russia's uncertain economic prospects. As of early June, about 2,700 business representatives from 90 countries were expected to attend far below the 13,500 participants from 140 countries reported last year. Organisers did not provide a list of foreign businesses attending, but the programme for the more than 100 panel discussions showed few speakers from outside Russia. Some were from China, and the trade minister of the United Arab Emirates is scheduled.

The forum, often characterized as Russia's analogue of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, aims to portray the country as orderly and full of attractive opportunities for clever and adventurous investors. This year's program carries the theme to an extent that is overly optimistic for Russia's straitened circumstances.

Several sessions focus on developing Russia's tourist potential, despite the difficulty of foreigners even getting to the country amid flight bans by Western countries.

Another session proclaims Russia as The Land of Opportunity but its introduction complains that the policy of abolishing Russian culture' abroad, closing borders and interruption of banking services makes it difficult to choose Russia as a place to study or work.

Less than four months after wide-ranging sanctions were imposed and hundreds of foreign companies pulled out of Russia, the full effect on the Russian economy is unclear.

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