The US and Russian presidents set aside political strains to stand shoulder to shoulder in tribute to those who gave their lives in World War II.However, behind the united front, tension has overshadowed the meeting of the two men. At talks held earlier, thorny topics were raised including the issue of internal reform in Russia. Washington is concerned that the Kremlin is stunting democracy. Russia was rattled by comments made by George W. Bush in Latvia at the weekend, branding the Soviet domination of eastern Europe “one of the greatest wrongs of history.” To add to this the US president had revealed open sympathy for complaints by the Baltic states about relations with Russia. They are demanding an apology from Moscow for their annexation by the Soviet Union. Despite the difficulties, the two statesmen were in good humour as they studied a wall map of Russia at Vladimir Putin’s country house. They even shared a brief hug before walking off to a private office. After they went for a spin in a vintage Russian car. Later Bush left for Georgia on the last leg of his European tour. It is a visit being hailed as a pointed show of Washington’s support for democratic freedoms in Russia’s backyard.