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Can Russia come back from the cold?

Russia's economy was troubled before the recent controversial annexation of Crimea – and its way back to strong growth is not yet clear.

Some veteran Russia-watchers are warning that investors will be cautious about the country even if President Vladimir Putin suddenly embarks on a charm offensive with the U.S. and Europe.

"Corporate boardrooms are going to have to assess whether it makes sense to re-invest in a country that's quite possibly going to be isolated for some time," Bernard Sucher, member of the board at Russian investment bank Aton, told CNBC.

There will be tighter compliance, very intense due diligence, and "concern among all participants about how the world and their shareholders will assess them if they make further commitments to Russia," he warned.

Read MoreRussia's next step: Capital controls?

And Russians themselves are protecting themselves against perceived weaknesses in the economy, which go much deeper than the Ukraine crisis.

It is not yet clear how much the Russian economy will be affected by the annexation of Crimea, and subsequent sanctions from the West. However economists and ratings agencies have rushed to downgrade their 2014 growth forecasts for Russia. The country has already been suspended from the G-8 group of the world's leading industrial economies and Tuesday NATO halted all dealings with authorities in Moscow.

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"A lot of my friends have moved out from Russia because they don't believe they can build any business here," Alena Popova, chief executive of Rusbase, which is focused on Russian start-ups and venture capital, told CNBC.

"I'm afraid we have 70-75 percent of people who would like to build their first business going out of Russia."

Read MoreWhy I respect Putin: U.K.'s Farage

"It is not very easy to find a new level of equilibrium," Yulia Tseplyeva, chief economist at Sberbank, told CNBC.

She spoke of a "wave of optimism" returning to Russia's MICEX stock index following the pessimism of early March, which saw an estimated $70 billion yanked out of Russia. The MICEX has underperformed the broader emerging markets index

Some of this capital is now returning, particularly from Russian investors, and that could lead to more capital inflows, Tseplyeva argued.

However, she is "not confident" about much-needed structural reforms to the economy going ahead this year.

"It's not a story about Ukraine, it's about our local economy," Popova said.

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