German CEOs turn down invites to Russian business forum; Merkel's office denies pressure

BERLIN – Chief executives of major German companies have turned down invitations to this week’s St. Petersburg International Economic Forum amid tension between Russia and the West over Ukraine.

Deutsche Bank, engineering giant Siemens and energy firm E.ON confirmed Wednesday their CEOs won’t participate in the event taking place in the Russian city May 22-24.

E.ON spokesman Adrian Schaffranietz says the company’s chief executive, Johannes Teyssen, had cancelled his appearance “due to an important short-notice appointment.” He declined to elaborate.

Officials at Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office had invited companies Monday to discuss the government’s position on the Ukraine crisis ahead of the forum. The chancellery said Wednesday it gave the companies no recommendation on whether to attend.

Earlier this month the U.S. government appealed to American executives to cancel their attendance.