Putin urges Russia's billionaires to invest in face of 'sanctions war'
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday urged Russia's billionaires to invest in new technology, production facilities and enterprises to help it overcome what he said were Western attempts to destroy its economy.
Addressing Russia's business elite in person for the first time since the day he sent his troops into Ukraine on February 24 last year, Putin told them their role was not just to make money but to support society.
Companies should not hide their assets offshore but should invest more at home, he said.
He hailed the "high mission" of entrepreneurs who looked after their workers and directed their talents not just towards extracting profit but also for the public good.
Billionaires Oleg Deripaska, Vladimir Potanin, Alexei Mordashov, German Khan, Viktor Vekselberg, Viktor Rashnikov, Andrei Melnichenko and Dmitry Mazepin - whose interests range from metals and banking to fertilizers - were among those in attendance.
"A responsible Russian entrepreneur is a genuine citizen of Russia," Putin went on adding that this sort of citizen does not hide assets in offshores but invests at home.
Though welcomed with a standing ovation, he was delivering a tough message to Russia's richest people: that they need to think more about the needs of the country and less about their own bottom line.
When he met with them at the start of his "special military operation", Putin told them he had been left with no choice but to launch his "special military operation" - in effect forcing them into a public display of consent.
Many of the tycoons, known as oligarchs, were subsequently placed under sanctions by the West, but Putin said the attempt to destroy Russia's economy had failed.
He said those Western firms that had decided to stay in Russia rather than flee in a corporate exodus last year had made a smart decision.
The head of Russian truck maker Kamaz Sergei Kogogin said on Thursday his firm was seeing its best financial results in 20 years - a claim that earned the applause of President Vladimir Putin, with whom he was sharing the stage during a panel discussion.
Kamaz CEO was speaking alongside Putin at an annual forum for Russia's business elite, where Putin called on the assembled business owners to invest in building Russia's new economy in the face of Western sanctions.