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The Washington Post: Putin works to reassure CEOs on investment in Russia

EXTRACT: Van der Veer thanked Putin for helping Shell secure a good agreement over the $22 billion Sakhalin project and then asked what the rules of the game were in Russia, participants and a Shell spokesman said.

THE ARTICLE

By Michael Stott and Guy Falconbridge
Reuters
Sunday, June 10, 2007; 3:02 AM

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin worked to reassure CEOs from leading global companies about the security of foreign investment in Russia at a closed door meeting on Saturday evening, participants said.

“Putin gave a very reassuring speech about Russia’s economic development going forward and underlined that Russia was open for investment outside a few strategic sectors of the economy,” one of the CEOs told Reuters.
 
The Russian president told the group of around 100 chief executives attending the St Petersburg International Economic Forum not to worry about political developments.

Putin said presidential elections next March would take place strictly according to the constitution and Russian law — a coded reference to the fact that he will not be seeking a third consecutive term, which the constitution forbids.

“Putin is very convincing because he is very assured. He knows exactly what he thinks,” the participant said.

Those attending said the meeting included an exchange between Putin and Royal Dutch Shell chief executive Jeroen van der Veer.

The Kremlin forced Shell and its Japanese partners in April to cede control of Sakhalin-2, the world’s biggest liquefied natural gas project, to Russia’s state gas giant Gazprom at what analysts considered a knockdown price.

Van der Veer thanked Putin for helping Shell secure a good agreement over the $22 billion Sakhalin project and then asked what the rules of the game were in Russia, participants and a Shell spokesman said.

Putin replied by giving a short history of the deal and thanking Shell for helping Russia secure such a good agreement.

One participant also quoted Putin as saying that the rules of the game were very simple: honesty.

BP, whose Russian venture faces the possible loss of its giant Kovykta gas field in Eastern Siberia to Gazprom after official accusations that it has breached the terms of its license by under-producing, did not raise that topic at the meeting.

Russian media have reported that the government may have decided to postpone a decision on Kovykta — originally due at the start of June — for a couple of weeks to avoid upsetting the St Petersburg forum.

This year’s forum is far bigger than in previous years, following big efforts from the government to persuade Russian and foreign companies to attend at a high level and turn the event into a major showcase for Russian economic power.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/10/AR2007061000133.html

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