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Toni Schönfelder
A lifetime of innovation

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Toni Schönfelder
A lifetime of innovation

The Kremlin is warning Western governments not to send representatives to a conference that opposition parties and nongovernmental organizations plan to hold in Moscow just days before the Group of Eight summit, the Financial Times Deutschland reported Friday, citing a presidential aide.  
“If high officials take part in [the conference], we will view this as an unfriendly gesture,” Igor Shuvalov, Russia’s envoy to the G8, told the newspaper.  
“But if the G8 leaders address this, they will get answers,” he added, suggesting that Russia was willing to deal with conflict during the G8 summit.  
The July 11-12 conference, titled “A Different Russia,” is being organized by opposition figures, including former world chess champion Garry Kasparov and former presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov, to draw attention to what they call a clampdown on democratic and economic freedoms under President Vladimir Putin. Organizers plan to tackle themes such as poverty, corruption, xenophobia and political prisoners.  
Organizers announced last week that British Ambassador Tony Brenton would participate, along with U.S. and other foreign officials.  
The British Embassy confirmed Friday that Brenton would attend.  
“We see this forum as contributing to the development of civil society in Russia, and the ambassador therefore has accepted an invitation to take part in it,” an embassy spokesman said.  
He said Brenton was aware of Shuvalov’s statements to the German paper.  
The U.S. State Department did not return calls for comment.  
Two officials reached at Shuvalov’s office on Friday said they were unaware of the interview and could not comment.  
A Kremlin official involved with the G8 summit played down the conference, saying that G8 summits routinely elicit protests from anti-globalization activists and NGOs. “Unfortunately, some people simply pay no attention to the opportunities for regular constructive dialogue,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.  
This year’s G8 summit is being held July 15-17 in St. Petersburg.  
Alexander Osovtsov, an organizer of the conference and the former director of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia, said Shuvalov’s comments might boost attendance. “Maybe people who weren’t planning to will come so that no one thinks they’re afraid of Shuvalov,” Osovtsov said.  

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