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Finnish President Visiting Tatarstan

Finnish President Tarja Halonen holds talks with Tatar President Rustam Minnikhanov in Kazan.
KAZAN, Russia -- Finnish President Tarja Halonen has arrived in the Tatar capital, Kazan, to boost economic and cultural relations with the Russian republic, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

Halonen's one-day visit comes as part of her state visit to Russia. On November 9, she met Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow and said afterward that Finland is interested in establishing better relations with Russian regions.

After arriving in Kazan, Halonen toured the Kazan Kremlin, visiting the Grand Qul Sharif Mosque and the Annunciation Cathedral. She then met with Tatar President Rustam Minnikhanov.

Halonen later praised Tatarstan's aspirations to develop a modern economy and supported Finnish businesses desire to invest in projects in Tatarstan.

Minnikhanov assured Halonen that the Tatar government would do its utmost to make the region attractive to Finnish investment.

Halonen emphasized the importance of communication between people, and announced that the Finnish government is considering opening a visa center in Kazan by March 2011 to better promote visits by residents of Tatarstan to Finland.

Visa regulations for Russian citizens were also on the agenda in Halonen's talks with Medvedev.

Finland is home to a small but well-established ethnic Tatar community. The majority of modern Finnish Tatars are the descendants of Tatar settlers who came to Finland between the 1870s and 1918 when Finland was part of the Russian empire.

The current leader of Finland's Tatar community, Okan Daher, was a part of the Finnish delegation visiting Russia.