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City news, 20.06.2005 17:50

Sonia Gandhi arrives in St Petersburg

Sonia Gandhi UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi arrived here today onboard a special Russian Presidential aircraft to hold talks with President Vladimir Putin on bilateral relations. She was received at the airport by Vice Governor of St Petersburg A V Prokhorenko. From the airport she drove straight to the Konstantiovsky Palace where she is scheduled to meet President Putin, who will also host a lunch in her honour.

Gandhi, who is on a four-day visit of Russia at the invitation of President Putin as his personal guest, will meet him today at his hometown and discuss ways to further enhance Indo-Russian strategic partnership. Later, she will visit the Imperial Palace Petershoff near St Petersburg. She is accompanied by External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh and Indian Ambassador to Russia Kanwal Sibal. She has already undertaken a private tour of cultural sites in Moscow visiting the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum, Kremlin Armoury and Diamond Fund which houses the diamond 'Bloody Shah,' the war booty which Persia's Nadir Shah took after his invasion of Delhi in the 18th century.

This is Gandhi's fourth Russia visit and first after becoming UPA Chairperson. Earlier, she had visited Soviet Russia with her husband late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Last time she visited Moscow with Rajiv in February 1991 as personal guests of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Gandhi noted that the proposal to set up a study group to enhance economic cooperation between the two countries was made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his talks with Putin on May 9 in Moscow. She said India and Russia had vast potential of cooperation in the fields of biotechnology, Information Technology and energy.

Putin proposed to hold a 'Year of Russia' in India in 2008 and 'Year of India' in Russia in 2009 to enhance peolpe-to-people contacts and cultural interaction between the two countries.

Welcoming Putin's proposal, Gandhi said she would also involve herself in organising those cultural events which will certainly strengthen people-to-people contacts between the two countries.

Kremlin Foreign Policy Advisor Sergei Prikhodko was also present during the talks.

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