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Russia unbowed by blast, leader says

At business forum, call for investment

By Angela Charlton and Frank Jordans
Associated Press / January 27, 2011

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DAVOS, Switzerland— Russia will not be brought to its knees by a deadly airport explosion, President Dmitry Medvedev told the world’s leading business gathering yesterday. And he insisted that the bombing shouldn’t make foreign investors cower in fear, either.

Somber and measured in his first keynote speech to the World Economic Forum, Medvedev listed the reasons why foreign companies should inject badly needed funds into a country plagued by corruption and too dependent on oil — and where investors have been burned time and again by a heavy-handed state.

It may be a hard sell at a meeting of 2,500 people focused on China’s growing clout, simmering anxieties about Europe’s debt morass, and the fallout of a financial crisis that left masses jobless.

Even before the blast at Moscow’s biggest airport Monday killed 35 people, some Davos participants were worried about Russia’s business climate. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion has fallen on Islamist separatists from the restive Caucasus region who have been battling Russian authority for more than 15 years.

“Those who committed this heinous act . . . expected that the terrorist act would bring Russia to its knees,’’ and thwart his plans to come to Davos, said Medvedev, who delayed his trip by a day.

“But they miscalculated,’’ he said. The attack “only strengthens our resolve to find an effective protection against international terror.’’

Medvedev fired a federal transport police chief yesterday and lashed out at “passive’’ officers who guard Russia’s airports and rail stations. Medvedev, often criticized as ineffectual compared with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, appeared eager to assert his power after Monday’s attack at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport, which also left 180 people wounded.

At Davos, Medvedev called for a common economic space from Russia across the EU, vowed to streamline taxation, and urged foreign investors to join in upcoming privatizations.

But for some at Davos, Russia’s reputation is clouded by a new prison sentence for long-jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the death in prison of corporate lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, and Russia’s failure to prosecute documented human rights abuses.

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