Russian President Vladimir Putin is hosting world leaders marking the 60th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany, but several recent comments have conspired to rain on his parade. US President George W. Bush has said Soviet rule of eastern Europe after 1945 was “one of the greatest wrongs of history”. During talks with Putin yesterday, the US leader touched on the sensitive issue of democracy inside Russia, specifically Moscow’s plans to scrap elections for regional governors. Bush has also hailed the courage and sacrifice of Russians during the Second World War. Last night at least, he steered clear of giving any history lessons as he and Putin appeared in jovial mood.
Bush was rewarded by being allowed to take the wheel of his host’s vintage Soviet-era Volga car. Later today the US leader is visiting Georgia. In Tbilisi the event is being seen as an endorsement of the country’s efforts to break out of Russia’s influence. Bush will hold talks with President Mikhail Saakashvili and Parliament speaker Nino Burdzhanadze, both key figures in the 2003 ‘Rose Revolution’ that ushered in the pro-Western opposition.