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Russian embassy voices regret over politicizing of UK companies’ participation in SPIEF

St. Petersburg International Economic Forum due to be held on May 24-26

LONDON, April 5. /TASS/. Russia’s Embassy in London voiced regret over pressure on British companies over their possible participation in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) due to be held on May 24-26, a spokesman for the embassy said.

In a comment on the latest publications in The Times and other UK mass media on this issue, the Russian diplomat said: "One can only feel deep regret about any such pressure put on British companies, if the publications are true."

"Politicizing the issue of British companies’ participation in SPIEF look strange, to put it mildly, especially now that the UK needs heavily to widen its foreign economic ties and to get access to the rapidly growing markets. It seems unfeasible to implement the "Global Britain" concept without that. It is hard to give a rational explanation to these short-sighted actions, which is no more than an unsuccessful attempt to depreciate the significance of the Forum just because it is held in Russia," the diplomat said.

There has also been an unacceptable attempt to draw the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce (RBCC) into anti-Russian activities "by misquoting the comments of its representatives regarding the Chamber’s participation in SPIEF-2018," the diplomat noted. "We would like to emphasize that the RBCC’s mandate is to promote the Russian-British mutually beneficial bilateral trade and economic relations as it has been successfully doing for more than 100 years."

It is up to each company to decide whether to take part in the forum or not and at which level, the diplomat said. "We believe that they will take the right decision. Those who incite British companies to miss opportunities to develop business and gain profits, pursue irresponsible policy towards their own entrepreneurs, hence undermining economic prosperity of the UK and its people."

On April 2, The Times published an article on the plans by British companies to send their representatives to the SPIEF-2018. It said that AstraZeneca pharmaceutical company planned to take part in the event, but the details were still discussed. The British oil and gas company BP refused to answer if its CEO Bob Dudley would attend the forum, and another energy giant Royal Dutch Shell said it did not comment on the plans of its top managers. British-Dutch consumer goods company Unilever has not commented on its participation in the upcoming forum.

According to The Times, the call on British top managers to boycott the SPIEF came from founder of Hermitage Capital William Browder, who dismissed the possibility of their participation in the forum as a non-patriotic step. Moscow’s Tverskoi Court sentenced Browder in absentia to nine years in jail, finding him guilty of deliberate bankruptcy and tax evasion worth over 3 billion rubles ($52 million at the current exchange rate).

The Russo-British Chamber of Commerce (RBCC) said its representatives have not shown an intention to attend the SPIEF-2018, according to The Times.