Kremlin says U.S. firms face pressure to skip Russia forum

By Katya Golubkova

By Katya Golubkova

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin said on Wednesday many U.S. companies were coming under pressure not to attend an annual economic forum which is hosted by President Vladimir Putin and is Russia's answer to the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The May 22-24 St Petersburg Economic Forum is usually attended by chief executives of big U.S. firms, as well as heads of other international companies, but the U.S. government has said it is not appropriate for them to attend this year because of the crisis in Ukraine.

"As we know, many U.S. companies have faced direct unprecedented pressure... They are deciding whether to go or not to go to the forum but not on their own," Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told RIA news agency.

He said Putin had not altered his agenda for the forum, which is intended to woo investors. Putin is due to deliver the keynote address at the forum.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said last week that U.S. government officials had been discussing the forum with business leaders, and had made it clear that attending would not be appropriate given "flagrant violations of a sovereign nation's territorial integrity."

Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in March, following the ouster of the country's pro-Moscow president, and pro-Russian separatists have taken over several towns and cities in Russian-speaking areas of eastern Ukraine.

Some Russian companies and individuals have faced sanctions over the events in Ukraine. Moscow denies being behind the moves in the eastern regions.

(Reporting by Katya Golubkova, Editing by Nigel Stephenson and Timothy Heritage)