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'Tweeting' Medvedev tours Silicon Valley

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, iPad at the ready, darted about Silicon Valley courting Internet stars as allies for a Moscow version of the renowned center of innovation.
By HT Correspondent | AFP, Palo Alto, California
UPDATED ON JUN 24, 2010 01:02 PM IST

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, iPad at the ready, darted about Silicon Valley courting Internet stars as allies for a Moscow version of the renowned center of innovation.

"I am inspired by what I saw here in Silicon Valley," Medvedev said while wrapping up his tour with a speech at Stanford University.

"I am sort of jealous of all of you here."

Medvedev, proudly brandishing a trendy Apple iPad tablet computer, vowed to reform education and modernize Russia's schools so students could excel in technology.

He added that he wants to make sure that Russians get broadband Internet connections so they can reap the benefits of open access to online information and services.

Medvedev said that technology should "help us tackle corruption and senseless interference of the state" as well as be part of a needed overhaul of Russia's health care system.

In a point dear to the hearts of technology firms, he promised to educate people regarding intellectual property rights.

Russia aims to remain stable to promote modernization, and to achieve that it needs to "tackle" the problem of terrorism "as soon as possible," according to the president.

While taking questions from the audience, Medvedev was asked how he planned to "make a place in Russia to let crazy Russians make crazy companies" in keeping with the unfettered setting for start-ups in Silicon Valley.

He said he planned to avoid "paternalism" and to give entrepreneurs safe haven in the new technology hub.

"If you are willing to work hard and willing to change the world around you within the framework of the law, everyone has a chance to succeed," Medvedev said. "This is my policy."

Medvedev began his day at Twitter, firing off his first "tweet."

Twitter co-founders Ev Williams and Biz Stone gave Medvedev a crash course in the service, which lets people share terse messages of 140 characters or less and Web links.

Medvedev's first "tweet" from his new Twitter account, @KremlinRussia, was a message in Russian that was translated into English as "Hello everyone, I am now on Twitter."

In a possible sign of a budding Twitter lover, Medvedev immediately launched into a second "tweet," writing "Today I am going to visit the Silicon Valley companies including Apple, Yandex, and Cisco."

Besides Twitter, the Russian leader visited popular gadget maker Apple and secured a commitment from US networking giant Cisco that it would invest one billion dollars in Russia.

Cisco executives took Medvedev and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on a brief tour of the company's headquarters in the city of San Jose in the heart of Silicon Valley, the birthplace of the high-tech revolution.

Cisco said it would invest one billion dollars to "drive entrepreneurship and sustainable innovation in Russia."

Medvedev then went to Palo Alto, home of Stanford University, where he called on the small downtown offices of Russia's top Internet search engine and portal, Yandex.

"We are very much loved in Russia so we are proud that the president visits our office," Yandex co-founder Ilya Segalovich said before Medvedev swept into the room and shook hands with the company's workers.

"This is the first time in 12 years that I've worn a suit," Segalovich said.

Medvedev wore a steel gray suit jacket and opened collar blue dress shirt with blue jeans and dress shoes.

Segalovich and fellow co-founder Arkady Volozh demonstrated Yandex.ru workings for Medvedev, who posed for group photos with the workers before stepping across the street to meet with local Russians in a cafe.

A small crowd on the street cheered as Medvedev stopped to shake hands.

"I already tweeted a picture of the president's visit," whispered Segalovich as he translated Medvedev's comments.

Medvedev fielded questions from Russian business people, telling them it is vital for technology companies here to share what they learn with businesses in the high-tech hub taking shape in a Moscow suburb.

Before departing Russia, Medvedev singled out as a priority the setting up of a "Russian Silicon Valley" in the Moscow suburb of Skolkovo.

The project aims to entice leading Russian and foreign scientists to focus their energies on nuclear and bio-medical technologies, energy and telecommunications.

Medvedev is to meet with US President Barack Obama in Washington, on Thursday and then take part in the Group of Eight and Group of 20 summits in Canada over the weekend.

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