Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on European leaders to improve ties with his country despite sanctions.

Speaking at Russia's top economic conference Putin said Friday the European Union should "show flexibility" and consider the interests of EU investors who want to do business with Russia.

Western leaders and company executives went to Russia's St. Petersburg Economic Forum this year after a two-year break that felt more like a boycott.

Putin had a meeting with the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell on Thursday and other international executives, telling them that Russia is open to Western investment despite the strained ties with the West.

The U.S. and the EU slapped Russia with economic sanctions in 2014 after it annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula and threw its backing to separatists in eastern Ukraine.