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Medvedev visit: Hacks, spooks and men in black.


Patrick Dewhurst

MEDVEDEV'S visit to the presidential palace went off without a hitch yesterday, under the watchful gaze of several hundred hacks, spooks, cops and even a platoon of commandos.

The proceedings began an hour late, after Medvedev's jet was delayed en route from Algeria yesterday morning.

After a couple of false starts -- the first, a trio of black Mercedes that dropped off several stern-looking men in dark suits and earpieces, the second a pair of rickety pickup trucks that might have made a wrong turn -- the Russian leader made his entrance.

He was greeted out of his bomb-proof limo by President Demetris Christofias, a brass band (which trilled out the Russian anthem) and a guard of honour made up of Cyprus' elite commando unit.

The two leaders briefly inspected the troops and exchanged civilities as they approached the statue of Archbishop Makarios, where a large wreath had been placed on an easel.

Perhaps unsure if he should transfer the wreath, which two officers of the presidential guard had placed earlier, Medvedev rearranged the ribbons before initiating a moment of silence with a solemn bow.

Proceedings resumed with a meet and greet with ministers, members of the 98 strong delegation and several dignitaries including Russian Ambassador Vyacheslav Shumskiy, who had been waiting in line.

Behind the press barrier more than 260 journalists, of which 50 were Russian, jostled for photo ops and filled the air with the sound of camera shutters, television commentary and speculation about the significance of the visit for the two nations and of the imminent signing of bilateral agreements -- All the while watched on by a 91-strong Russian security detail.

Asked about the significance of the visit for Russians in Cyprus, one Russian resident said "It is historic because it is the first time the Russian head of state has visited. It is just a shame he cannot stay for two days and see something cultural, like a visit to Kykkos monastery."

With the greetings over, the leaders retired indoors for a tete a tete, followed by official talks with delegations from each country. Meanwhile the press reassembled in a marquee in the palace's back garden to watch ministers sign agreements and Medvedev award Christofias the "Decoration of Friendship" medal.

Standing side by side, the two leaders delivered speeches to all and sundry.

Christofias said "I wish to express my earnest pleasure and feeling that I am moved by today's meetings here at the Presidential palace. These documents mark a new impetus in the wide-ranging cooperation of our two countries in the political, economic and cultural fields."

The agreements that were signed would determine the nations' joint actions over the next three years in all fields on bilateral and multilateral levels, he said.

"It is with satisfaction that a great momentum is being developed to strengthen ties in the fields of economy, commerce, tourism and investments by both Russian and Cypriot businessmen." Christofias said, adding that their new double taxation agreement "constitutes an important development, which will assist in the further improvement of economic relations."

Though there was much speculation about the economic benefits to Cyprus, President and Chairman of the Management Board, JSC VTB Bankk, Andre Kostin, would later express doubts about the possible increase in Russian investment in Cyprus.

Christofias also thanked the Russian Federation for their "stable, consistent, principled support" to Cyprus problem.

After a brief question and answer session concerning further business cooperation, Christofias closed proceedings and Medvedev set off his next engagements: a meeting at the House of Representatives, a speech to the Russian Cyprus business forum at the Hilton, a meeting with Archbishop Chrysostomos and the inauguration of the Russian Commercial Bank in Nicosia.

Finally he returned to the palace for a banquet before his planned 10.20pm departure for Moscow.

Copyright Cyprus Mail 2009

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Geographic Code:6ALGE
Date:Oct 8, 2010
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