MOSCOW/LONDON May 13 Around a dozen chief
executives and chairmen of major U.S. and European corporations
have pulled out of an economic conference in St Petersburg as
pressure between Russia and the West grows over the crisis in
Eleven business leaders who were listed in late March as
scheduled to attend the St. Petersburg International Economic
Forum from May 22-24 are no longer on the programme on the
Only one company said their executive's decision to stay
away was due to political tensions with most refusing to give a
reason. However, the cancellations come as the United States and
Europe mull further sanctions on Moscow in relation to violence
in Eastern Ukraine, which western governments have blamed in
part on Russia.
Sanctions have already been imposed in reaction to Russia's
annexation of Crimea.
The chief executives of oil producer ConocoPhillips,
jet maker Airbus Group, Visa Inc, Aluminium group
Alcoa, Siemens, Citigroup, Morgan
Stanley, International Paper Company, Pepsi
, Italian oil group Eni and the chairman of
consulting group Bain & Company are among those no longer
scheduled to attend the event.
Over a dozen Western business leaders, including Goldman
Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein, remain on the
programme but sources close to some of the companies said, other
bosses planned to pull out.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said earlier this month
that U.S. officials had been discussing the event, Russia's
answer to the Davos World Economic Forum, with business leaders,
and had made it clear that attending would not be appropriate
given "flagrant violations of a sovereign nation's territorial
Business sources said the withdrawal of CEOs from the forum,
which is held "under the auspices" of the president, according
to its website, could be seen as a sleight by Putin and could
damage their companies' businesses in Russia.
"I am sure that the forum will be held in a friendly
atmosphere and that any withdrawals will not spoil the
atmosphere," said Deputy Minister of Economic Development Sergey
Belyakov in a video interview posted on the St Petersburg
"Many companies confirmed their participation and we have no
problems with the quality of our participants or of the number.
Around 6,000 participants confirmed - many top managers of
Russian and foreign companies that are in Forbes and Fortune
ratings," he said.
"I am surprised at the pressure coming from the White House
administration. The only parties which will suffer will be
Belyakov said Russia understands the atmosphere in which
American companies are making their decisions and said there
would be no risks for those companies in Russia who cancel.
Spokespeople for Pepsi, Citigroup and Siemens confirmed
their bosses had pulled out, and blamed scheduling clashes.
Spokespeople for Airbus, Conoco, Visa, Morgan Stanley,
International Paper, Bain & Company, declined or were not
available for comment.
Paolo Scaroni, Eni's CEO until earlier this month was due to
attend but a spokesman for the Milan-based group said no
decision had yet been taken on whether his successor, Claudio
Descalzi, would attend.
The only company to link its decision to the political
situation was Alcoa which said last week that CEO Klaus
Kleinfeld was withdrawing "in light of the U.S. government's
A source close to Goldman Sachs said Blankfein was unlikely
to attend. The bank declined comment.
(Additional reporting by Tim Hepher in Paris, Jens Hack in
Frankfurt, Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles, Anna Driver in
Houston, Lauren LaCapra, David Henry, Ernest Schneyder and Lewis
Krauskopf in New York, Ludmila Danilova in Moscow; editing by