Putin to Seek New Economic Order at Davos

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will call for a change in the world economic order and deliver his assessment of what caused the global economic debacle in an opening speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday night.

While it would not be new if Putin blamed the United States for the crisis, his appearance at the five-day forum will mark the first time that a Russian prime minister attended the gathering of the world's political and business elite since Mikhail Kasyanov in 2002.

In his remarks to 40 heads of state including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at Davos, Putin will "express his attitude toward the causes of the crisis and the circumstances on the world arena ... that led to the crisis," his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday.

Putin will call for changes to prevent a repetition of the global economic meltdown, tell about Russia's response to the current troubles and his vision of the international situation, and explain Russia's stance in the gas standoff with Ukraine earlier this month, Peskov said.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko is also heading to the forum.

Putin said in an interview published on the Cabinet's web site Tuesday that he was looking forward to attending Davos. "I think the history of international economic relations has not witnessed anything like that [the economic crisis]. That's why joint work in venues like this is, in my view, is in high demand," he said.

This year's gathering will be dedicated to shaping a post-crisis world and brings together more than 2,500 participants, including more than 1,400 chief executives and chairmen from the world's leading companies, the highest number of executives since the World Economic Forum was founded in 1971.

Putin will speak for a half-hour in his opening address, starting at 8:30 p.m. Moscow time, the forum's schedule shows.

He will then attend a dinner hosted by Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, said Stephen Kinnock, a forum spokesman. Putin will later throw his own reception, said Kinnock, the forum's head for Europe and Central Asia.

Putin is scheduled to hold talks with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, also attending Davos for the first time, on Wednesday. The two are likely to discuss a Chinese loan in exchange for Russian oil that the countries have been negotiating since last year.

On Thursday, a group of 40 chief executives from some of the world's biggest corporations — representing the forum's International Business Council — will have a 2 1/2-hour meeting with Putin, Kinnock said. Putin will then sit down to talk with editors from international media outlets for 2 1/2 hours under the auspices of the forum's International Media Council, the spokesman said.

Time has been set aside for a number of bilateral meetings before Putin's departure Thursday afternoon. Putin plans to hold working meetings with the leaders of Poland, Armenia and Mongolia, his spokesman Peskov said. Meetings with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan and other visiting leaders are possible on the sidelines of the forum, he said.

Putin will be at the head of a government delegation comprising First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, Kremlin economic adviser Arkady Dvorkovich and Tatarstan Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov, Kinnock said. Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina withdrew Monday afternoon, apparently replaced by Dvorkovich, who wasn't listed as a participant on the forum's web site.

Nabiullina's ministry is working to update forecasts for the economy this year. Last year, the highest-ranking guest from Russia was Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin. Then-First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attended the previous year.

Businessmen taking off for Davos include LUKoil president Vagit Alekperov, Basic Element chairman Oleg Deripaska, VimpelCom chief Alexander Izosimov and VTB chief Andrei Kostin.

The forum will notably be devoid of the profuse parties — often featuring movie stars like Angelina Jolie — that some participants used to throw in their better days before the crisis hit.

"We are not having any celebrities at Davos this year," Kinnock said. "This is a celebrity-free zone.

"The World Economic Forum needs to ensure that it's clearly focusing on the very substantial issues and challenges that the world faces at the moment, and that requires some very in-depth discussions and thinking on a number of issues."

The idea to exercise a bit of austerity came from both the organizers and participants, he said.

The Russians in Davos appear on track to follow the mood, a change from last year when Troika Dialog bankrolled an ice-skating show with 17 champion skaters for more than 200 guests.

"I don't think there's anything apart from the reception that Putin will host on Wednesday evening at one of the hotels here in Davos," Kinnock said. "I don't think that's going to be particularly lavish. It will be high-level but not too extravagant."