WATCH WHERE YOU'RE PUTIN YOUR HANDS.. Jun 25 2003
Russian leader in contact with the Queen
By James Hardy Political Editor
HE'S the first Russian leader to make a state visit to Britain for 129 years and Vladimir Putin yesterday seemed a little out of touch with our customs.
He boldly took the Queen's arm as they stepped from a carriage at Buckingham Palace.
But she didn't seem to notice the breach of etiquette.
Mr Putin and his wife Lyudmila will stay at the Palace as the Queen's guests during their four day trip.
Mr Putin's visit is the first since Tsar Alexander II came to London in 1874 for the marriage of his daughter Marie Alexandrovna to Queen Victoria's second son Prince Alfred.
Officials pulled out all the stops to make Mr Putin welcome. Prince Charles met him at Heathrow airport.
They were 15 minutes late getting into Central London after being stuck in traffic but the Queen waited patiently. She passed her time at Horse Guards Parade chatting to top brass and politicians. Twice she bent down to pat guide dog Sadie and had a long chat with owner Home Secretary David Blunkett.
Other VIPs included Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Mr Putin will meet the Prime Minister tomorrow for talks aimed at healing the rift over the Iraq war.
But at a state banquet last night the Queen made the first inroads into patching up the divide.
She said: "Mr President, it is I believe a sign of genuine friendship that we are able to have disagreements but remain firm partners.
"It is no secret that there were significant differences between our two countries earlier this year on how best to handle Iraq.
"But we are now able to look forward together, firmly in agreement on the route we have decided in the United Nations."
After guests had enjoyed truffles, salmon and chicken in champagne, the Queen also praised Mr Putin's record at home. She said: "You personally have been energetic and determined in promoting reform in Russia.
"In particular, your dedication to the task of reforming and strengthening Russia's economy, so improving the quality of life for ordinary Russians, wins our real admiration.
"We support your efforts to create a modern, prosperous and dynamic state."
Earlier in the day, Mr Putin had arrived at Horse Guards to a 21-gun salute and inspected the ceremonial guard of honour, the Nijmegen Company, Grenadier Guards.
Mrs Putin then rode with Prince Philip, while her husband travelled with the Queen, in a horse drawn carriage procession from the Mall to Buckingham Palace escorted by the Household Cavalry. Security was tight after the breach at Prince William's birthday party on Saturday.
The Scots Guards played the Russian and British national anthems as the carriages arrived at the Palace. Mr Putin later went to Westminster Abbey where he laid a wreath on the grave of the unknown warrior.