Schwarzenegger hails Russia on high-tech mission

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California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday led a high-powered delegation of tech executives to Russia, praising President Dmitry Medvedev as a visionary for moving to a high-tech future.

Schwarzenegger was taken by Medvedev to the site of one of his most ambitious projects, the creation Russian equivalent of Silicon Valley in the "innovation town" of Skolkovo outside Moscow.

Medvedev has championed the plan to develop a flourishing high-tech industry in Russia similar to California to wean the economy off its dependence on oil and gas reserves.

"I think we could really create a great boom in (the high-tech) industry here," the ex-Hollywood actor said, praising Russia as a land investor opportunities.

"I love places with extraordinary potential and in Russia the potential for growth is so extraordinary," Schwarzenegger said. "You look at it and say 'Oh my God!' it's like a diamond or gold mine."

Schwarzenegger, who once played a Russian policeman in "Red Heat", a movie set in perestroika-era Moscow, said that "it's a challenging thing" for the country to switch from Communism and integrate into the global economy.

He expressed optimism however that Russia's leaders can now "start concentrating on economic development and diversification of the economy," decreasing dependence on oil.

Schwarzenegger's delegation includes figures like former Intel chairman Craig Barrett and leading executives from companies like Google, Microsoft and Oracle.

Medvedev is "a great visionary, someone who has a great vision of the direction Russia ought to go," he said.

"There is no reason why Russia should not have the best cars and export them to European countries," along with other products, "especially exercise equipment and food supplements... because Russian athletes were known for decades as the best athletes."

In a demonstration of Russia's former car industry, President Medvedev took Schwarzenegger on a ride in a vintage GAZ Chaika model, which was used in the 1960s by Soviet high officials.

"We very much hope that our cooperation will bring good fruit," Medvedev told the governor, who brought 25 business representatives with him from Silicon Valley.

He admitted that the idea to build Skolkovo "has both ardent adherents and active critics." "We are not embarrassed to learn," Medvedev said.

Medvedev visited California earlier this year and was sufficiently inspired to start his Twitter microblog on which he raved about the atmosphere in Silicon Valley.

The two men exchanged Twitter updates in the morning before the meeting, and Schwarzenegger caused a sensation among Muscovite commuters on Sunday night when he took the metro and proudly posted a picture of himself on Twitter squeezed among hordes of standing passengers.

"People in Moscow apparently love their public transit," he tweeted laconically.

Schwarzenegger, who is set to step down as governor in January, was born in a small Austrian village and became a champion body-builder before embarking on a Hollywood career.

He called for partnerships with Russian companies: "I am convinced that it will be very good for California and very good for Russia," he said.

Medvedev has said he is fascinated by technology. He uses tools such as Twitter and an Internet video blog to get his message across and spends time surfing Russia's immensely popular blogging sites.

His embrace of the Internet contrasts with the attitude of powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who stated at a meeting chaired by Medvedev earlier this year that the Internet was "50 percent porn".

© 2010 AFP

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