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Putin promotes BRICS, rebukes hegemon West in his Economic Forum speech

Countries worldwide are racing to “strengthen their sovereignty” in response to Western nations’ attempts to “maintain their elusive role as hegemons,” President Vladimir Putin stated in his plenary address at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on Friday.

Since its invasion of Ukraine over two years ago triggered severe Western sanctions, Moscow has been seeking to expand its support base in Africa, South America, and Asia, positioning itself as a defender against the West’s “neo-imperialist” ambitions.

“We’re witnessing a genuine race among nations to bolster their sovereignty,” Putin remarked at the start of his address. “Countries that recently led global development are striving by any means necessary to retain their fleeting hegemonic status.”

Putin emphasized BRICS—a bloc comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—as a significant geopolitical counterbalance to Western influence.

“Through BRICS, we’re developing an independent payment system immune to political pressure, abuse, and external sanctions,” Putin stated. “BRICS has substantial potential for attracting new members.”

Before Putin’s speech, the plenary session featured a dramatic video presentation highlighting the history of European colonization, the exploitation and enslavement of Indigenous peoples, and drawing parallels to contemporary relations between Western nations and the Global South.

Putin’s address also touched on domestic issues, such as state investment in higher education, record-low unemployment rates, and the rise of homegrown brands after numerous Western companies exited Russia due to the Ukraine invasion.

Although Putin largely avoided discussing the war, he briefly praised Russian businesses for supporting the country’s armed forces.

“Many domestic entrepreneurs support the soldiers and veterans of the special military operation, their families, and those close to our heroes,” he said, using the Kremlin’s preferred term for the full-scale invasion. “They provide products to units, purchase items and equipment, and assist hospitals.”

“This profound sense of social mission, responsibility, and patriotism is highly valuable and deserving of great respect,” Putin continued, which prompted applause from the audience.

Previously known as the “Russian Davos,” SPIEF had attracted leading Western businesspeople, investors, and officials to Putin’s hometown, facilitating major international deals like the Nord Stream gas pipeline.

However, since Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the forum’s lineup has shifted to reflect Moscow’s pivot towards Asia and Africa amid diplomatic and economic isolation from Kyiv’s Western allies. Besides Putin, the leaders of Bolivia and Zimbabwe were featured as key speakers at SPIEF’s plenary session on Friday afternoon.

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I am an experienced writer, analyst, and author. My exposure in English journalism spans more than 28 years. In the past, I have been working with daily The Muslim (Lahore Bureau), daily Business Recorder (Lahore/Islamabad Bureaus), Daily Times, Islamabad, daily The Nation (Lahore and Karachi). With daily The Nation, I have served as Resident Editor, Karachi. Since 2009, I have been working as a Freelance Writer/Editor for American organizations.

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