Putin seeks to reassure visiting French business leaders
MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to reassure top French business leaders in the Kremlin Thursday as they met following the arrests of several major foreign investors.
The business community in Russia is still shaken by the February detentions of prominent US investor Michael Calvey and his associates, including French citizen Philippe Delpal.
Calvey, on controversial fraud charges, was recently moved from pre-trial jail to house arrest. Delpal remains in detention.
“Russia will do everything for foreign investors, including yourselves, dear colleagues, to feel as comfortable as possible,” Putin told the French businesspeople.
He said French companies in Russia should “be satisfied in the way our relations are developing.”
The head of oil giant Total, Patrick Pouyanne, told AFP ahead of the meeting that he intended “to raise the topic” of Delpal.
“It is a topic that is part of the framework to improve business. In order to invest, you need to have faith,” he said.
The French delegation included the directors of top companies such as Total, Renault, Societe Generale and Auchan.
France is one of Russia’s main economic partners and the first foreign employer in Russia, despite international sanctions slapped on Moscow for its role in the Ukraine crisis in 2014.
Franco-Russian trade plunged after the West imposed sanctions on Moscow in 2014 for its role in the Ukraine crisis. Moscow responded with an embargo on most European food products.
But despite the sanctions, more than 500 French companies work in Russia, employing around 160,000 people.
France has also invested in the Russian energy sector. Total is partnering with Russia’s Novatek in huge gas projects in the Russian Arctic.
Large French retail chains such as Auchan and Leroy Merlin are also well established in Russia.
Copyright AFP (Agence France-Press), 2019