The Russian president wants to get back to doing business with the EU...
The St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) got underway this morning and is set to feature an address from Russian President Vladimir Putin that will open the gates for renewed economic co-operation between Russia and the European Union.
According to Bloomberg sources, Putin is keen to start doing business with Europe once again, and will use the platform to call for normalising ties between his country and the world's largest trading bloc.
EU sanctions on Russia, which were introduced in 2014 in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea, are set to lapse on July 31st.
A unanimous vote is required for sanctions to be prolonged, and they are currently expected to be extended for another six months.
Germany is one major EU nation tiring of the measures, noting last month that Russia's retaliatory ban on EU food products has cost exporters billions of euro in revenue.
When Bloomberg asked spokesman Dmitry Peskov whether Putin would extend an olive branch to normalise ties, he responded:
"This is his constant message! It mostly falls on deaf ears."
Concessions on Ukraine are not expected at the three-day event, however, with Putin instead making the case for the opportunities available to foreign businesses in Russia and painting a picture of a brighter economic climate with co-operation bringing low inflation, economic growth and stable reserves.
At the SPIEF Grand Opening, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said that Russia and the EU should carry on a dialogue despite sanctions.
Other guests of note include Italy’s prime minister Matteo Renzi and UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.
This is a big change from last year's SPIEF, when Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras was the only senior EU leader in attendance. The Kremlin claims that Putin has spent a week preparing for the 2016 conference.
Talking to former French president Nicolas Sarkozy ahead of SPIEF yesterday, Putin had joked "you are in a very nice position now – you can speak with frankness!"