DAVOS – Russia will usually have its own “house” at the World Economic Forum as a showcase for business leaders and investors.
This year, Ukrainian artists have transformed the decorated main street of Davos into a “house of Russian war crimes”, depicting grief and destruction.
Russia has denied the allegations in a statement issued Friday stating “Similar, baseless allegations concerning Russia’s intelligence have been made more than once.
Ukraine topped the agenda of a four-day meeting of world business leaders, which began cordially on Monday with a video speech by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“This is the most influential economic platform in the world, where Ukraine has something to say,” Zelensky said in his daily video address on Sunday night.
Since the WEF meeting stemmed from a coronavirus epidemic break of more than two years, the postponement from January to May meant that participants would be surrounded by spring flowers and green slopes instead of navigating the snowy roads.
But not only is the weather in 2022 different, Russian politicians, executives and academics are completely absent.
Russian companies such as its Sovereign Wealth Fund, state-owned banks and private companies have thrown out the most glamorous parties in previous years, serving black caviar, vintage champagne and foie gras.
They even hired some of Russia’s most prominent musicians and pop stars to perform for the top executives.
In addition to the Ukraine crisis, post-epidemic recovery, tackling climate change, the future of jobs, accelerating stakeholder capitalism, and the use of new technologies are among the topics to be discussed in Davos.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, German Chancellor Olaf Schulz and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg are among the leaders to address the meeting.
On the business agenda, the discussions are likely to focus on the bitter state of the financial markets and the world economy.
After a sharp bounceback from the recession that began with the onset of the epidemic two years ago, there are now numerous threats to that recovery, which has led the International Monetary Fund to lower its global growth forecast for the second time since the start of the year.
Inflation has emerged as a problem in the last year, especially in the US economy, due to the disrupted supply chain.
This has been complicated by events since the beginning of 2022, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the COVID-19 lockdown wave across China that has halted recovery.
Ukrainian artists are hoping to get a message from world leaders in Davos to fight for a better future.
After the Russian shelling in Kharkiv, viewers are confronted with what looks like a badly burned man and thousands of dead civilians, as well as a movie about a bombed-out house.
“It’s a place where all the world’s influential and decision-makers come together,” Bjorn Geldoff, artistic director of the Pinchukart Center in Kiev, told Reuters TV.
“Tomorrow will define what is happening in Ukraine.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation” to disarm the country and liberate it from extremist anti-Russian nationalists.
Ukraine and its allies have rejected the almost three-month-old war as a baseless pretext, which has killed thousands, displaced millions and destroyed cities.
While the WEF meeting may not return to pre-epidemic levels, Zurich Airport expects the number of flights to be about two-thirds of the previous level, with its return coming as a welcome relief to ski resort hotels and restaurants.
“This is another step back to normal,” said Samuel Rosenest, a spokesman for the local tourism board. (Sabine Seabold, Dmitry Zhadanikov, Dan Burns, Reporting by Tara Oaks; Additional Reporting by Lavie Maria Starkova; Editing by Alexander Smith and Paul Simao)