Medvedev urges joint nuclear, space projects with Italy

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday urged joint nuclear and space projects with Italy as part of his mission to recruit top talent for a Russian Silicon Valley outside Moscow.

Speaking after talks with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in the northern business hub of Milan, Medvedev invited Italian firms to help Russia develop projects in the space, nuclear, telecoms and pharmaceutical industries.

"Practically each of these areas is open for our friends," he told a joint news conference with the Italian leader.

"It is important that large European countries take part in creating the foundations of Russia's high-tech economy."

As part of efforts to broaden Russia's industrial base, currently centred on oil and gas, one of Medvedev's pet projects is the creation of a Russian version of Silicon Valley.

The government has earmarked 5.5 billion dollars (4.3 billion euros) for the complex, to be sited outside Moscow.

Medvedev earlier this month urged foreign diplomats to help Russian businesses forge economic alliances with the West, notably Italy, Germany and the United States.

Berlusconi for his part hailed growing bilateral cooperation but said Russia should bring its infamous bureaucracy under control if it wanted to see more Italian investment.

"One of the obstacles is bureaucratic pressure," Berlusconi said, while recognising Moscow's will to tackle the problem.

Afterward, the Italian premier, a personal friend of Medvedev's predecessor Vladimir Putin, said he would accompany Medvedev on a stroll in Milan's main cathedral square and take him to his villa in nearby Arcore.

The Italian leader also said he hoped they could pop into "some Milanese bar to have an aperitif" and visit the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie to see Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece "The Last Supper".

Medvedev said that although he has been travelling to Italy for the past 20 years it was his first visit to Milan.

Later in the day the Russian president may head to Italy's Cervinia resort near the border with Switzerland for a weekend of skiing before returning to Moscow on Sunday, several Kremlin officials said.

"Everything will depend on the weather," one spokesman told AFP. The forecast is for stormy weather in Cervinia on Friday, followed by weekend sunshine.

Italy is one of Russia's key allies in western Europe, and the two countries cooperate on the South Stream gas pipeline, which will carry Russian gas to the region via the Black Sea once it is completed, scheduled in 2015.

Russia and Italy plan a series of joint cultural events next year, a gesture Moscow usually reserves for its close friends and allies.

As part of the programme, La Scala's ballet troupe will perform at Russia's renovated Bolshoi Theater in December 2011, the Kremlin said.

© 2010 AFP

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