Russia's international economic forum opens with few participants from West

Russia has opened an annual economic forum as the country's first large-scale gathering following its invasion of Ukraine. This year's participants are coming mostly from countries that have strong ties with Russia.

The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum began on Wednesday. Organizers say business leaders and government officials from 115 countries and regions are expected to take part in the four-day event.

President Vladimir Putin attaches importance to the gathering. In the past, leaders of the Group of Seven major economies took part. Former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and French President Emmanuel Macron were among them.

But the latest forum looks different, as it sees few participants from Western nations and allies, which are stepping up economic sanctions on Moscow.

Many attendees are from countries in the Middle East, Africa and South America, as well as former Soviet republics.

Russia's presidential office says around 260 foreign companies are taking part, while more than 1,200 domestic firms are expected to attend.

A Kremlin spokesperson says Putin will deliver a speech on Friday about soaring prices of natural resources and food security in the world.

The spokesperson accused "unfriendly" nations of worsening the situation by unleashing what Russia calls an economic war.