Citigroup CEO Corbat Bows Out of Putin’s Economic Forum

Citigroup Inc. Chief Executive Officer Michael Corbat withdrew from an economic forum that Russian President Vladimir Putin is hosting next month.

Other bank executives will be sent to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in Corbat’s place, New York-based Citigroup said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

The U.S. is threatening tougher sanctions against Russia as efforts to force the country out of global financial markets are seen as President Barack Obama’s best weapon to defuse tensions over Ukraine. The U.S. already imposed sanctions on more than two dozen individuals and St. Petersburg-based OAO Bank Rossiya.

Other CEOs of U.S. financial-services companies including Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Lloyd C. Blankfein, Morgan Stanley’s James Gorman and Visa Inc.’s Charlie Scharf are still scheduled to participate.

Citigroup, which has more than 50 branches in Russia, returned to the country in 1992 following the collapse of the Soviet Union, ending a 72-year absence. Vikram Pandit, 57, Citigroup’s CEO from 2007 to 2012, was a regular speaker at Putin’s economic forum and also advised Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on turning Moscow into a financial center.

Corbat, 53, attended the event last year, where he spoke on a panel titled “Making the Tough Decisions in Reforming Global Finance.”

An agreement to disarm rebels signed last week in Geneva by Ukraine, Russia, the European Union and the U.S. is on the brink of collapse. Obama said yesterday the U.S. and its allies have additional sanctions against Russia ready to go because Putin’s government has yet to abide by the accord.

Putin lashed out at Visa and MasterCard Inc. yesterday, saying the payment networks would lose market share after the firms stopped processing cards for Bank Rossiya last month. Visa has “clearly seen a drop-off” in cross-border volume since the U.S. imposed sanctions against Russia, Visa finance chief Byron Pollitt said yesterday on a conference call.

“We’re caught between the politics of the United States and the politics of Russia,” Scharf, 49, said on the call.

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