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Putin urges Russia’s billionaires to help overcome Western attempts to destroy economy

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday called on Russia’s billionaires and business elite to invest in new technology, manufacturing facilities and businesses to help Russia overcome what he said were Western attempts to destroy its economy.

Putin also said that Russia has so far resisted such attempts and that Western firms who chose to stay in Russia last year and not flee as part of a corporate exodus made a smart decision.

He met with top Russian billionaires in person for the first time since February 24 last year, the day he launched what he called his “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Putin told them at the time that he had no choice but to send in Russian forces, and in effect forced them into a public display of approval. Many of the tycoons, known as oligarchs, were subsequently sanctioned by the West.

For more than a year, Putin has been pressuring them to increase investment at home and boost the economy in the face of an unprecedented flurry of Western sanctions.

According to images from the rally, attendees Thursday included billionaires Oleg Deripaska, Vladimir Potanin, Alexei Mordashov, Nemec Khan, Viktor Vekselberg, Viktor Rashnikov, Andrey Melnichenko and Dmitry Mazepin — whose interests range from metals and banking to fertilizers.

Putin told business leaders that Russia faces a “sanctions war” but is quickly reorienting its economy to countries that have not imposed sanctions on Russia, thanking them for their work to help the Russian state.

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