MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia said on Saturday the top foreign guest at an economic forum in Vladivostok next week would be the vice president of Laos, and that it had “nothing to say” about a possible visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The New York Times reported on Monday that Kim would meet President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East this month, fanning speculation he might visit during the forum which runs from Sunday to Wednesday.
But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the senior foreign guest at the event would be the vice president of Laos, Pany Yathotou, with whom Putin would hold a separate bilateral meeting. Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Guoqing is also due to attend, he said.
The annual forum is aimed at developing economic cooperation in the region and encouraging foreign investment. Past attendees include the Japanese prime minister and the Chinese president, but Western sanctions against Moscow have slashed foreign participation in such events.
Last year, after Russia sent its army into Ukraine, the prime ministers of Armenia, Mongolia and Myanmar were among the most prominent guests, while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the forum via video link.
(Reporting by Reuters, editing by Mark Trevelyan and Ros Russell)