After a two-year break which felt like a boycott European leaders and chief executives of top multinational companies are coming to Russia to speak at the country's top economic gathering.

Russia's annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine landed President Vladimir Putin in what appeared to be international isolation with economic sanctions slapped against the economy and Russia kicked out of the G8 group of nations.

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi will be addressing the St. Petersburg economic forum on Thursday and Friday in an apparent sign of an emerging movement within the EU to ease economic sanctions on Russia.