Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev will not attend the annual economic forum in Russia’s St Petersburg next week, the government said on Friday, after refusing to toe the Kremlin’s line over the Russian invasion of Ukraine at last year’s event.
The Kazakh government said only two officials will represent the Central Asian nation at this year’s forum.
Until its invasion of Ukraine, Russia regularly hosted world leaders and business titans at the forum, but Western officials and business figures now shun it, and last year Tokayev stole the limelight by rejecting the Kremlin claims on Ukraine.
Sharing the stage with Russian President Putin - who will address the forum this year as well - Tokayev said then that Kazakhstan would not recognize the independence of pro-Russian statelets in eastern Ukraine or other ex-Soviet republics.
His comments raised eyebrows because Kazakhstan, which shares the world’s longest continuous land border with Russia, has for decades been a member of Moscow-led security and trade blocs, and calls Russia its strategic partner.
Asked who would attend the conference this year, a Kazakh government spokeswoman said only Deputy Prime Minister Roman Sklyar and Deputy Economy Minister Timur Zhaksylykov would go.
Tokayev’s office declined to comment on the reasons why he was not attending.
Russia’s RIA news agency reported last month that Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, invited by Putin, said would not be able to attend this year’s forum. Russian media have not announced plans by any other world leaders to attend.
The forum in St Petersburg, the former imperial capital of the Russian Empire, has been held since 1997 and is cast by Russian officials as Moscow’s answer to the annual World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland.