Putin Woes French Investors on Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin sought Tuesday to sell French businessmen on Russia, trying to soothe concerns that his country is still a gamble for foreign investors. Putin, who had met with French President Jacques Chirac and European Union officials on Monday, is on a four-day trip meant to thaw relations with France. After meeting with the country's most influential employers' group, he invited a group of entrepreneurs to visit Moscow on Nov. 8. Ernest-Antoine Seilliere, the head of the employers' group, said participants had expressed a willingness to do more business in Russia. ``There is an indisputable change in the atmosphere,'' Seilliere said, adding that the businessmen were charmed by the stern-looking Putin. ``Snapshots of Putin give the impression the man is inflexible, not to say chilly,'' he said. ``But in real life, he's a very hearty person.'' Russian officials said the trip had injected new life into relations soured by French criticism of war in the breakaway republic of Chechnya. ``It's the first time the dialogue has been so open and so profound,'' Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Tuesday. A joint declaration issued Monday from Putin and the EU officials stressed the need to find a political solution in Chechnya, but insisted Russian sovereignty must not be compromised, AP reports.