Protesters Will Blame Putin, Davos Elite for Global Crisis

GENEVA — Hard-left and anarchist activists will blame Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and other world elite for the global crisis at a major anti-capitalist demonstration in Geneva coinciding with the annual World Economic Forum in Davos at the end of the month, organizers said Wednesday.

"Having a major demonstration in Geneva at a time when world capitalism is in crisis has real meaning because this city, the stronghold of private bankers and of commodity trading houses, is at the center of the system," a statement by protesters said. The Davos gathering, it said, will be the scene of efforts "by those who have created and profited from the economic crisis to work out a short-term solution that will protect their interests … in a huge operation of exploitation and theft."

The statement said the forum's opening speech by Putin — whom it described as "the butcher of Chechnya" — would set the tone for a meeting of "the elite of world capitalism."

Leftist groupings regard the forum, which has its headquarters in Geneva although the regular January meeting of global economic and political leaders is at the opposite end of Switzerland, as a nerve center for global capitalism.

The forum, set up in the 1970s, describes itself as "an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas."

It says some 42 national leaders — including Putin, Wen Jiabao of China and Angela Merkel of Germany — will attend this year's Jan. 28 to Feb. 1 meeting alongside developing country leaders, top company and banking figures and labor union representatives.

Protests, which often turned violent, were held in Davos itself during the 1990s, but were later banned and organizers switched them to Zurich or the Swiss capital, Berne.