DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev appealed to international investors to back his country on Wednesday, saying they should ignore prejudice and stereotypes and remember Russia was only 20 years on the path of democracy.
Medvedev used two appearances on the opening day of the World Economic Forum -- a keynote speech and a private meeting with investors -- to stress Russia’s place among key world nations and its determination to build a modern economy.
Wearing a black tie, the Kremlin chief curtailed his visit to Davos to deal with the aftermath of Monday’s suicide bombing at a Moscow airport but said he wanted to make the journey to the Swiss Alps to show the bombers they would not succeed in bringing Russia to its knees.
“All our efforts to rebuild and further develop the global economy will be in vain if we fail to defeat terrorism, extremism and intolerance,” he said.
In a private meeting earlier with key investors, Medvedev -- who first came to Davos four years ago while still a presidential hopeful -- appealed for patience with Russia, saying the country needed time to build its institutions.
German Gref, the head of Russia’s top bank, state-controlled Sberbank, said he thought Medvedev’s key message to investors was that Russia’s democracy was still very young.
“You should learn to wait,” Gref said when paraphrasing Medvedev’s key message to investors.
In his speech, Medvedev reminded the audience of CEOs that Russia would sell off over the next three years stakes worth tens of billions of dollars in leading banks, infrastructure and energy companies.
“The main goal is to make the companies themselves more efficient and improve the competitive environment for business in our country,” the Russian president said.
He said the state would also encourage more partnerships in the energy sector, such as a recent $16 billion asset swap and Arctic development deal between Britain’s BP (BP.L) and Kremlin-controlled oil firm Rosneft (ROSN.MM), and would refrain from raising taxes on the financial sector.
Medvedev, a keen computer buff, also showed a lighter side in his appearance on the stage at the Davos Forum.
Waving his iPad, he joked to delegates that he was often tempted when surfing the Internet early in the day to respond immediately via Twitter to incorrect reports or wrong assumptions about his country.
The Kremlin chief, whose government is not noted for its openness, also gave surprise backing in Davos to WikiLeaks.
“Despite the fact that in itself those were probably illegal activities in the view of some states, the effect of this affair appears to me very, very positive for international relations,” Medvedev said.
WikiLeaks’ publication of U.S. diplomatic cables painted an unflattering picture of Russia as a lawless, corrupt, mafia state and Medvedev as the junior partner begging approval from Russia’s “alpha-dog ruler” Vladimir Putin, the prime minister.
Additional reporting by Ken Li; editing by Alastair Macdonald