UPDATE 1-Russia-EU summit to display warmer ties, pragmatism

* Kremlin wants EU to scrap visa requirements for Russians

* Europe seeks to reverse fall in trade, eyes euro support
(Adds U.S. comment on Russia crackdown on protesters)

By Conor Humphries

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia, June 1 (BestGrowthStock) – Russian President
Dmitry Medvedev hosts EU leaders on Tuesday for a summit aimed
at putting aside past differences and focusing on reviving
trade and boosting troubled economies.

The Kremlin leader has put a warmer face on ties with the
West in recent months, and the summit in the southern city of
Rostov-on-Don was expected to demonstrate new-found pragmatism
in relations between Moscow and the European Union.

Previous summits under former President Vladimir Putin were
often marred by rows over thorny issues such as human rights.

“For once, there is no significant dispute outstanding,
either political or economic, between Russia and any of the EU
member countries,” said Chris Weafer, chief strategist at
investment bank Uralsib.

During the summit, EU leaders hope to get Kremlin
assurances on the ailing euro, which accounts for nearly half
of Russia’s currency reserves. Moscow, for its part, needs more
technology and investment as part of Medvedev’s modernization
drive.

Two decades after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Russian
officials said they would also press for visa-free travel to
Europe for Russian citizens.

Human rights could still overshadow the meeting.

On the eve of the summit, as Medvedev sat down for dinner
with EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission
President Jose Manuel Barroso, police used force to disperse
anti-Kremlin rallies in Moscow and St Petersburg.
[ID:nLDE64U1PX]

Washington, not part of the summit, criticized the
crackdown. “The United States regrets the detention of peaceful
protesters in Moscow and Saint Petersburg,” White House
spokesman Mike Hammer said in a statement.

“The reports of beatings by people associated with law
enforcement, the rough handling of those detained and
deplorable conditions of detention do not correspond to
universal norms assuring citizens freedoms of expression and
assembly,” he said.

In a letter published on Monday in The Moscow Times
newspaper, prominent figures including former Czech President
Vaclav Havel and Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu questioned
Kremlin pledges to improve the human rights situation.

“We ask Medvedev and urge the Russian government to protect
people in danger and to ensure quick and effective
investigations into the murders of human rights activists,
journalists and independent-minded jurists,” said the letter.

WARMER TIES

Yet officials from both sides said they expected a
good-humored meeting focused on brass-tacks issues, reflecting
warmer relations between Moscow and Poland, and a leaked
Russian Foreign Ministry memo calling for a more pragmatic
policy.

After rising for nearly a decade, EU exports to Russia fell
sharply during the financial crisis, dropping to 66 billion
euros last year from 105 billion euros in 2008.

Foreign direct investment in Russia from the EU fell from
25 billion euros in 2008 into negative territory last year, EU
figures show.

Analysts said EU leaders were likely to ask for assurances
that Russia would avoid actions that could undermine confidence
in the euro. Russia’s Central Bank chairman said on Thursday
that, “for now,” he did not see the need to sell any of the 41
percent of some $450 billion of currency reserves held in
euros.

On the visa front, Moscow has been pressing for years for
an end to visa requirements for Russians traveling to Europe.

The Kremlin has watched in frustration as, despite the
post-Soviet economic recovery, Brussels scrapped visas for
poorer states such as Bosnia and Albania, but not for Russia.

EU officials fear scrapping visas could spark a backlash
among voters in Western Europe, where high levels of migration
from the ex-Communist east have become increasingly sensitive.

Medvedev, who has made modernization and innovation
watchwords of his presidency, also seeks EU help in weaning the
Russian economy off its dependence on energy exports, which
contributed to a 7.9 percent collapse in Russian GDP last
year.

Investment Basics
(Writing by Conor Humphries; Additional reporting by Matt
Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by Maria Golovnina and Peter
Cooney)

UPDATE 1-Russia-EU summit to display warmer ties, pragmatism