Eyes on Medvedev for St. Pete Forum

BloombergMedvedev on stage at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum last year, where he was outshone by Ivanov.
This year's St. Petersburg International Economic Forum is drawing more attention than ever and will focus on creeping global economic isolationism and Russia's long-term development, Economic Development and Trade Minister Elvira Nabiullina said Wednesday.

All eyes will be on Dmitry Medvedev as he meets international investors for the first time as president during the June 6-8 event. He is penciled in to make the opening speech on June 7, and a first deputy prime minister will make the main speech on June 8.

As with last year, organizers have teamed up with the World Economic Forum to give 100 CEOs from around the world a chance to meet Medvedev and key ministers at an invitation-only roundtable, a World Economic Forum spokesman said.

Among the confirmed speakers for the general forum are BP chief Tony Hayward, Chevron head David O'Reilly, Gazprom boss Alexei Miller and British environmentalist Nicholas Stern, according to a preliminary schedule published on the forum's web site.

The forum will be spilt in two themes: June 7 will be dedicated to the issue of how governments around the world are defending their economic interests and what international monetary bodies can do about it, while June 8 will focus on the ups and downs of Russia's economy, Nabiullina, who heads the forum's organizing committee, said at a news conference.

In total, two plenary sessions, 13 roundtable sessions and 10 conferences and will be held, she said.

Nabiullina declined to elaborate on the extent of Medvedev's participation or how prominent a role Vladimir Putin, who has promised to become prime minister, would play. Asked for details about Medvedev's forum speech, she said: "We don't want to ruin the intrigue. Why should I say what exactly will be discussed at the forum?"

This year's event, the 12th in the forum's history, sees it growing from strength to strength. With almost two months left until the forum kicks off, Nabiullina said the number of registered participants was already 10 times higher now than at the same point last year. Some 8,000 people are expected in all.

Last year, First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, then touted as a presidential candidate, stole the limelight and oversaw a raft of mega-deals signed by Russian businesses at the forum. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore dropped out at the last minute, much to the consternation of then-Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref.

Also speaking at the news conference Wednesday, St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko, wearing jewel-studded sunglasses and a lime green suit, promised an expansive round of entertainment from the city's world-famous orchestras. Matviyenko would not say which international stars will be performing at the opening concert, however. Last year, it featured the Scorpions and Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees.

Asked about the possibility of opposition marches being allowed in the city during the event, Matviyenko said they could go ahead as long as they were authorized and not too prominent.

"If they submit their applications correctly and everything is done according to the law, then we will find them some space to protest in," Matviyenko said.

No special security will be introduced for the event, she said.