By ANGELA CHARLTON
DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) â¿¿ Is Russia a haven of promise for the bruised global economy? Russian officials insist it is â¿¿ and are bringing out the vodka in snowy Davos to change the minds of critics who say "nyet."
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and a bevy of top Russian officials and CEOs are trying to make the case at a forum for the world's business elite that Russia is THE place to invest in 2013.
Russia will leading the G-20 and is preparing to host the Winter Olympics in Sochi next year. Its debts and unemployment are low, its economy keeps growing, its CEOs are optimistic. It's blanketing the World Economic Forum at Davos with events, parties and press releases.
But business executives burned by state interference or pervasive corruption in Russia argue that things aren't as good as they look. And even Davos organizers warned in a report this week that Russia could grow more risky â¿¿ and not less â¿¿ in the years to come.
Medvedev sent a mixed message Wednesday, courting investors and insisting that his country is misunderstood â¿¿ all while criticizing European energy regulations and visa policies and reiterating promises on political freedoms in Russia that have long gone unfulfilled.
The European Union is pressuring Russia to apply EU rules to the European operations of gas giant Gazprom, just as Russia is struggling to maintain its dominance of Europe's gas market.
"We are seeing new barriers erected in the way of efficient work. And it is very sad because they are retroactively changing the rules of the game," Medvedev told a crowd that included CEOs with assets in Russia, the leaders of non-governmental organizations and a few critics of the Kremlin.
"I would like to use the occasion to criticize my European partners. Because they listen, but don't always hear us," he said, highlighting the pressing issue to Russians of visa-free travel to Europe.