Schroeder visits Russia on Putin's birthday

Russian President Vladimir Putin will marks his 53rd birthday on Friday in his native city of St. Petersburg in the company of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and four leaders of former Soviet Central Asian republics, who held a summit of the Organization of Central Asian Cooperation.

The summit decided to unite with the EurAsEc economic organization of former Soviet republics and Putin said “it was the best present for his birthday”.

Putin was himself at the wheel of his Mercedes limo when he brought Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kirgiz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, and Uzbek President Islan Karimov to a post-summit press conference.

Schroeder is arriving in St. Petersburg on Friday on a “brief working visit upon the invitation of the Russian President”, the Kremlin press service said. In April 2004 Putin was in Germany to congratulate Schroeder on his 60th birthday.

That will be the eighth Putin-Schroeder meeting this year that will bring the total number of their summit meetings to 37, reports ITAR-TASS.

There has been markedly less pomp ahead of Putin's birthday compared with the political frenzy to congratulate him that marked his 50th birthday three years ago, which Putin spent at a CIS summit in Chisinau, Moldova.

In September 2002, the Argumenty i Fakty newspaper asked what the country's biggest political problem was. "Not the 2003 budget, not Chechnya and not the fires in the Moscow region," the newspaper wrote, but "what to give V. Putin for his 50th birthday."

Putin is reportedly not a big fan of ostentatious gifts, though he did accept a diamond-encrusted Super Bowl ring from New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft after a meeting in St. Petersburg in June. Kraft later said it was a present, though it was speculated initially that Putin pocketed the ring when Kraft merely meant to show it to him, informs the Moscow Times.


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