Obama visit gets lukewarm welcome from Russian media

MOSCOW Tue Jul 7, 2009 4:10am EDT

President Barack Obama waves on his arrival at Vnukovo airport outside Moscow, July 6, 2009. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov

President Barack Obama waves on his arrival at Vnukovo airport outside Moscow, July 6, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Denis Sinyakov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's media on Tuesday gave muted coverage to the first day of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit, cautioning that the promised "reset" in U.S.-Russia ties remained far off.

At the start of a trip intended to mend strained ties, Obama and Kremlin leader Dmitry Medvedev agreed on Monday to set a target for cuts in nuclear arms and reached a deal to let U.S. troops fly across Russia.

But Russia's popular Moskovsky Komsomolets daily cautioned against rushing into optimistic conclusions.

"Can the leopard change his spots?" it asked. "America's main strategic course remains unchanged, irrespective of whoever occupies the president's chair."

"Obama now acutely needs a visible and tangible foreign policy success... Warming relations with Russia would well fit in to become such a success."

Ekho Moskvy, Moscow's most influential radio news station, opened its morning news bulletin with a report on the death of dissident author Vasily Aksyonov, relegating Obama's visit to second spot. It played a soundbite from Medvedev but no quote from the U.S. leader.

In a tongue-in-cheek article, the business daily Kommersant said Russia's former President Vladimir Putin, who now wields vast powers as prime minister, was visiting a combine harvester producer in southern Russia when Obama was in Moscow on Monday.

"Barack Obama run over by combine harvesters," read its ironic front-page article on the visit.

The Vremya Novostei daily remarked that neither Obama nor Medvedev made any public mention of the Jackson-Vanik amendment which has been an irritant in Russia-U.S. ties since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Under the 1974 Trade Act of the United States, the amendment denied most favoured nation status to certain countries with non-market economies and restrictive emigration rights.

The rules were slapped on the Soviet Union for restrictions on the emigration of Soviet Jews and remains in place despite the fall of communism.

While some newspapers decried the hardships suffered by ordinary Muscovites due to triple police cordons and traffic restrictions as Obama's convoy moved around central Moscow, the Izvestia daily said the U.S. leader had not been given a red-carpet reception on his arrival.

"If -- all of a sudden -- Obama had hoped for a red carpet and a crazy crowd of fans chanting something like Hollywood-style, 'We love you!', nothing of the kind was awaiting him in Moscow," it reported.

"But one also cannot say that there weren't at all any gawkers dying to get a glimpse of the U.S. president."

(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Lin Noueihed)

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