World Economic Forum to take place in Moscow

Prominent international investors, government officials and politicians will turn Moscow's Marriott Grand Hotel into a mini-Davos for two days as the World Economic Forum rolls into the Russian capital Monday for talks on questions ranging from tackling rampant corruption to steering the economy away from a dependence on oil exports. It is the first World Economic Forum conference to be held in Russia since the dramatic gunpoint arrest of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky in October 2003.

Khodorkovsky's jailing and the partial renationalization of his oil company Yukos were seen as a vendetta by President Vladimir Putin's Kremlin against a powerful political rival. The campaign, which ended this summer with an 8-year prison sentence for Russia's once richest man, shook investor confidence, hobbled the Russian stock market and battered faith in the rule of law.

Ultimately it has been blamed for Russia's slowing pace of economic growth at a time when Putin has set the goal of doubling the nation's GDP by 2012.

Two years after Khodorkovsky's arrest, investor sentiment is on the mend, the stock market has rallied and the national finances are rosy. However, economists warn this is entirely thanks to the high price of oil on world markets rather than government policies.

Among the numerous round table sessions scheduled Monday, participants will consider how Russia's brain power can be tapped to diversify the economy away from a reliance on exporting the nation's bountiful raw materials.

A parallel session will seek to find cures for corruption, which some analysts say is on the rise despite Putin's pledges to rein it in. On Tuesday participants will take part in sessions devoted to how Russia can best manage the colossal oil revenues filling state coffers as well as improving conditions to attract much-needed foreign direct investment, reports the AP. I.L.

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