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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business Elite May Get to Quiz Putin

Leading businessmen may get an opportunity to question President Vladimir Putin on the direction the country is heading when they meet him in Sochi on Friday.

The meeting comes amid a Cabinet reshuffle triggered by the resignation of Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov last week. His replacement, Viktor Zubkov, said late Tuesday that acting Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov had resigned and that he had submitted his proposed list of ministers to Putin.

Speculation has swirled that a number of changes at the top of economic ministries and state-run companies are being considered.

The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, or RSPP, which represents the country's biggest business groups, is scheduled to meet with Putin during a three-day investment forum in Sochi that starts Thursday, said Svetlana Sorokina, an RSPP spokeswoman.

A Kremlin spokeswoman, speaking from Sochi, said the meeting would take place Friday and would take as long as required. She declined to say who would attend.

Both the RSPP and Kremlin officials said they were not aware of what the tycoons could talk about with Putin.

The RSPP board, which includes LUKoil CEO Vagit Alekperov, Unified Energy System CEO Anatoly Chubais, Sistema CEO Vladimir Yevtushenkov, Renova chairman Viktor Vekselberg, VTB CEO Andrei Kostin, Interros head Vladimir Potanin and financier Alexander Mamut, is to discuss the meeting with Putin on Wednesday, according to a notice of the meeting.

A source familiar with the situation said that, unlike Putin's meeting with 24 RSPP members in February, the Sochi meeting would be open to all RSPP members participating in the forum, not just its board members.

Sorokina said another meeting would probably take place later in the Kremlin, adding that it would probably depend on how Friday's meeting goes.

Putin and the top business leaders are scheduled to discuss long-term investment opportunities in the Southern Federal District, and Sochi in particular, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.

The authorities are keen to secure financing that could help them prepare Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

At a similar meeting last year, businesspeople were encouraged to invest in Chechnya, the official said. In February, Putin called on the tycoons to help diversify the economy away from oil and gas. Because of the recent government shake-up, a lot of issues related to the meeting remain murky, the official said.

"The format is not exactly clear," he said.

It was not clear Tuesday whether Putin would deliver a full address or just a short welcome speech, and whether businessmen would deliver reports or get to quiz Putin on changes in the government, economic policy and other issues, he said. Earlier at the forum,acting First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov is scheduled to deliver a speech on the development of infrastructure.