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Russia: Putin Soon To Arrive In London

London, 24 June 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to arrive in London shortly on a trip aimed at improving economic and political relations with Britain which were strained over the U.S.-led war in Iraq. The trip is being hailed as the first state visit to Britain by a Russian leader in about 130 years.

Queen Elizabeth II is due tonight to host a state dinner for Putin and his wife Lyudmila at Buckingham Palace.

Putin and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are expected to meet on 26 June for talks on issues including Russian-British relations and Russian energy supplies to Europe. The two sides are expected to sign an agreement enabling Britain to better assist Russia in the disposal of nuclear materials.

Putin's visit comes after Russia and Britain disagreed over the Iraq war. Blair strongly supported the U.S.-led invasion and committed British forces to coalition efforts.