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Archive for Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Putin gets royal treatment in Britain

June 25, 2003

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— In the first state visit to Britain by a Russian leader since the 19th century, Vladimir Putin came Tuesday to London as the guest of Queen Elizabeth II and was greeted with a red carpet at the airport, an artillery salute and a state banquet.

The Russian president's visit is an effort to repair damage done by the U.S.-led war on Iraq which Britain joined and Russia opposed and reflects Russia's growing economic importance to Britain.

Putin and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have cultivated a close relationship, and the two leaders will likely play down, at least in public, differences over Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

Little politics was discussed Tuesday as Putin and his wife, Lyudmila, were treated to a welcome with a scale rarely seen in Britain.

Prince Charles greeted the couple at Heathrow Airport as they stepped off their jet onto a red carpet, before they were whisked into central London.

Scarlet-garbed Grenadier Guards and mounted cavalry troops stood by as the queen, her husband, Prince Philip, and Blair greeted the Russian leader's motorcade.

Putin stood beside the queen on a dignitary-packed dais as a military band played the Russian national anthem and an artillery salute sounded.

Putin also laid a wreath in the colors of the Russian flag at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, representing war dead, in Westminster Abbey.

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