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Leonid Bershidsky

A-Listers Flock to Putin's Private Davos

Western executives and politicians turned up despite the sanctions, but the Russian leader offered no concessions.
Open for business.

Open for business.

Photographer: Simon Dawson

Two years ago, President Vladimir Putin decided to wait out Western attempts to isolate Russia economically and politically. This year's St. Petersburg Economic Forum -- an annual event informally known as Russia's Davos -- showed that his patience is gradually paying off, but business as usual still isn't within reach.

The lineup at the forum was much more impressive than in 2014, when Western leaders and top chief executives stayed away because Russia was toxic in the aftermath of the Crimea annexation, or last year, soon after the Minsk peace accord suspended the fighting in eastern Ukraine. This year, the U.S. State Department again warned U.S. companies against attending the gathering because of "clear risks, both economic and reputational, associated with top-level engagement with a government that is flouting the most fundamental principles of international rule of law by intervening militarily in a neighboring country." Yet Exxon Mobil Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson showed up.