Packed program for visiting Russians

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s day began early and ended late on Monday, as his state visit included a string of both festive and somber appearances and, finally, a gala state dinner at the Royal Palace in Oslo. His wife Svetlana had a program of her own, with Queen Sonja as escort.

Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (right) welcomed Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Oslo. PHOTO: Statsministerenskontor

The two women spoke French together as Queen Sonja helped guide Svetlana Medvedeva first around the Frogner Park, with all its statues by Gustav Vigeland, and then took her to Norway’s National Gallery. Medvedeva, educated as an economist, is interested in art and culture and seemed especially keen on seeing the National Gallery’s collection of works by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. Their visit came after formal welcoming ceremonies, lunch at the Royal Palace and a visit to a monument for Russian soldiers killed in Norway during World War II. The cemetery adjoins Oslo’s Frogner Park, so when the men headed off for a business seminar, the women viewed art.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev paid tribute to fallen Russian soldiers in Oslo on Monday, part of the busy first day of his state visit to Norway. PHOTO: Sven Goll

Svetlana Vladimirovna Medvedeva, age 45, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev were childhood sweethearts and married in 1993. She graduated from the Leningrad Institute for Finance and Economics in 1987 but reportedly gave up her career as an economist when the couple had their son Ilya in 1995. She’s since backed her husband’s political career and supports the arts and culture in Russia, according to newspaper Aftenposten. Queen Sonja hinted that Medvedeva may be back in Oslo for a Russian exhibit later this year. Both Medvedeva and her husband also attended a ceremony honoring 14 Norwegian and one Russian war veterans, with Medvedev thanking them for their contributions and awarding them medals. Finn Ramsøy, age 89, spoke on behalf of the veterans that they were reminded of the fellowship Norway felt with Russia during the war years, and the gratitude for Russia’s help in liberating northern Norway from the Germans.

Russia's president shakes hands with the CEO of Telenor, which just ended a bitter conflict with Russian business partners. At left, the CEO of industrial concern Orkla, and at far right, the CEO of Statoil, which has high hopes for cooperation with Russia's Gazprom. PHOTO: Statsministerskontor/Per Thrana

Late in the afternoon, Medvedev attended a seminar on business cooperation between Norway and Russia. A lengthy conflict between Norway’s Telenor and Russia’s Alfa Group ended just before Medvedev’s state visit began, perhaps not coincidentally, and Norwegian businesses are cautiously looking for new opportunities in the huge country. Russia is one of Norway’s most important markets, not least for seafood, with annual sales amounting to around NOK 12 billion, according to the prime minister’s office. Monday’s seminar also focused on opportunities for energy, industrial and technological cooperation.

Royal hospitality
King Harald  also highlighted a history of “good cooperation” in his speech at the gala state dinner he hosted for the Russian president Monday evening. He claimed that the countries’ shared border in the north has been among Europe’s most peaceful for a thousand years.

Norway’s monarch noted that Norwegian-Russian cooperation “isn’t only created by the authorities but first and foremost by contact between ordinary people.” Many Russians live in Norway and many Norwegians in Russia, with around 100 Norwegian companies having a presence in the Russian Federation.

The royal banquet was attended by 225 guests at the Royal Palace, featuring all the pomp and glamour of such lavish affairs. The menu featured some traditional Russian dishes, including red beets and flatbread, and fried herring, but it all started off with the palace’s “”own” smoked salmon and ended with an orange dessert.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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