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Medvedev Hails U.S.-Russia Ties At New GM Plant

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) with GM manager John Burton at the opening
SHUSHARY, Russia (Reuters) -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hailed a new General Motors plant as a sign of strengthening economic relations with the United States on November 7, days after criticizing U.S. foreign policy.

Medvedev attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony near St. Petersburg with the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, two days after rebuking Washington in his first annual address to the nation.

During his address, Medvedev had criticized the United States for its selfish foreign policy and economic blunders. Medvedev pledged to station new missiles near Poland in response to Washington's plans for an anti-missile system.

But Beyrle, Medvedev and the governor of the St. Petersburg region, Valentina Matviyenko, were all smiles for the cameras as they switched on GM's assembly line for the Chevrolet Captiva.

"General Motors has done everything to carry out the responsibilities it took upon itself," Medvedev said at the ceremony, adding that it was an ideal example of economic cooperation between Russia and the United States.

The U.S. automotive giant has pushed ahead with expansion plans in Russia even as the global financial crisis cut demand and local car makers slash production.

Medvedev also called the ceremony a symbol of Russia's resilience in the face of the crisis.

"We are witnessing a project completed in spite of the financial problems which the world is facing today," Medvedev said, before bending down to write good luck on a brand new Captiva.

The new factory, which cost $300 million to build on the outskirts of Russia's second city St. Petersburg, will produce 70,000 cars annually.

Two types of sports utility vehicle, often seen as the symbol of the Russian rich, the Opel Antara and the Captiva, will start production immediately. The plant will commence assembling the Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan in late-2009.

"The opening of this factory is a Russian-American handshake," said Matviyenko.