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To boost troubled economies:

EU leaders for warmer ties

RUSSIA : Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met EU leaders yesterday for a summit aimed at putting aside past differences and focusing on reviving trade and boosting troubled economies.

The Kremlin leader has put a warmer face on ties with the West in recent months, and the summit in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don was expected to demonstrate new-found pragmatism in relations between Moscow and the European Union.

Previous summits under ex-President Vladimir Putin were often marred by rows over thorny issues such as human rights.

“For once, there is no significant dispute outstanding, either political or economic, between Russia and any of the EU member countries,” said Chris Weafer, chief strategist at investment bank Uralsib.

During the summit, EU leaders hope to get Kremlin assurances on the ailing euro, which accounts for nearly half of Russia’s currency reserves. Moscow, for its part, needs more technology and investment as part of Medvedev’s modernisation drive.

Two decades after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Russian officials said they would also press for visa-free travel to Europe for Russian citizens.

Human rights could still overshadow the meeting.

On the eve of the summit, as Medvedev sat down for dinner with EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, police used force to disperse anti-Kremlin rallies in Moscow and St Petersburg.

In a letter published on Monday in The Moscow Times newspaper, prominent figures including former Czech President Vaclav Havel and Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu questioned Kremlin pledges to improve the human rights situation.

“We ask Medvedev and urge the Russian government to protect people in danger and to ensure quick and effective investigations into the murders of human rights activists, journalists and independent-minded jurists,” said the letter.

Rostov-On-Don, Tuesday, Reuters

 

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