Putin's Front Row Mixes Favored Tycoons With French, Japanese

(Bloomberg) -- The heads of major French and Japanese companies are getting red-carpet treatment alongside a handful of favored billionaires at President Vladimir Putin’s annual investment showcase in his hometown of St. Petersburg.

Patrick Pouyanne of Total and Jean-Bernard Levy of Electricite de France were awarded coveted front-row seats to Putin’s plenary session Friday alongside Toyota’s Takeshi Uchiyamada and Japan Post’s Masatsugu Nagato. Putin’s fellow panelists are French President Emmanuel Macron, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan and International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde.

Loyalists tycoons given the same honor include Alisher Usmanov, Viktor Vekselberg and Gennady Timchenko, as well as Swiss trading titan Ivan Glasenberg.

Other privileged participants include two Germans who also attended the Russian leader’s inauguration earlier this month to a new six-year term -- former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Matthias Warnig, who used to serve in the East German Stasi secret police. Both men, close friends of the Russian leader, are involved in running Nord Stream, a natural gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea.

They’ll be nestled among OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo and Russian corporate leaders including Igor Sechin of Rosneft, Herman Gref of Sberbank and Gazprom’s Alexey Miller.

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