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Russia: After G8, Putin To Host CIS, Investors Meetings

Putin is hoping to soothe investors' fears (Courtesy Photo) June 7, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's second city of St. Petersburg is set to host a round of summits and an opposition demonstration on June 8-9.

Thousands of international investors are due to descend on St. Petersburg for an economic forum in which President Vladimir Putin will try to soothe fears about Russia's political and economic direction.

Simultaneously, the Commonwealth of Independent States will hold an informal summit in which leaders are expected to discuss so-called frozen conflicts including those in Nagorno-Karabakh and Transdniester.

The opposition group Other Russia is due to hold a demonstration in St. Petersburg on June 9.

CIS Summit

The CIS summit is the last one under the organization's current executive secretary, Vladimir Rushailo, whose term in office expires on June 14.

Media reports in Russia citing unidentified CIS officials say former Central Election Commission chief Aleksandr Veshnyakov is widely expected to be named as Rushailo's replacement.

Analysts say Veshnyakov's appointment would send a strong signal that the CIS intends to become more active and vocal in monitoring elections in the former Soviet space. Russia has repeatedly said that Western election monitors are not objective and harbor a hidden anti-Russia bias.

Fyodor Lukyanov, editor in chief of the Moscow-based journal "Russia in Global Affairs," says that Veshnyakov's would be a logical appointment.

"Now, with elections always being a source of disagreement between Russia and the West, it is possible that [Russia] is trying to give the [CIS] monitoring organization more weight and a bigger role," Lukyanov said.

Lukyanov and other analysts say the summit will also give CIS leaders a chance to meet informally to discuss outstanding issues in the region -- most importantly frozen conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Transdniester, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia.

Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev are scheduled to meet on June 10 to seek a solution to the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Putin is also expected to meet Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.

Investor Conference

In addition to engaging in regional diplomacy with Russia's neighbors, Putin will also try in St. Petersburg to calm jittery investors amid mounting fears of a new Cold War between Russia and the West.

Previous opposition marches have been broken up by police (RFE/RL)

Approximately 10,000 participants and guests -- including politicians, officials, and top managers of Russian and foreign companies -- are scheduled to attend the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum from June 8 to June 10.

On the sidelines of the forum, 100 foreign CEOs have been invited to a private closed-door meeting with Putin.

Among those scheduled to meet Putin are the CEOs of soft drink makers Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, energy giants Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron, and the consumer electronics company Siemens.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on June 6 that Russia could face an exodus of Western investors if it continues to backslide on democratic freedoms.

Other Russia

The Other Russia opposition group, meanwhile, is planning to hold a March of Dissent on June 9. Unlike previous attempts to hold marches, the local authorities have approved the demonstration.

Speaking to RFE/RL on the sidelines of a conference in Prague this week, opposition activist Garry Kasparov said he believes that mounting Western criticism led to the authorities approving the demonstration.

Kasparov said he was satisfied with the approved location for the rally in downtown St. Petersburg -- but was concerned about possible "provocations" by police or pro-Kremlin youth groups.

"They accepted the rally, they negotiated with us, they gave us the alternative route and it is in the center. But we don't know what kind of measures they will take to prevent us from having a successful rally," Kasparov said.

Kasparov pledged that the rally's organizers would do everything in their power to keep the demonstration peaceful.

RFE/RL Russia Report

RFE/RL Russia Report

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