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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Petersburg Visit a Damper for Clinton


ST PETERSBURG -- U.S. President Bill Clinton's private visit Friday to St. Petersburg failed to spark much interest among a population more concerned about getting to work in a chilling spring rain.

Though some enthusiastic celebrity-spotters were appreciative and even managed a wave and sporadic applause, the distinguished tourist was usually far from the public eye under tight security.

As the first U.S. president to visit this city of 5 million since Richard Nixon in 1972, however, Clinton provided a boost to the pride of some in this former imperial capital.

"Everything is Moscow, Moscow, Moscow," said Ira Timofeyevskaya, a hairdresser, looking out her shop window at Clinton's motorcade on the city's central Nevsky Prospekt. "They forget that this is Russia's cultural capital."

"I think he is a good president. We need more like him here in Russia," said Anatoly, 59, one of the few who turned out specially to see Clinton.

Under a steady morning rain, Clinton visited the Piskaryovskoye Cemetery where about 500,000 of the people who died in the 900-day German siege of Leningrad during World War II are buried.

Looking grim, he linked the victims of the city's siege to those who died a year ago in the bombing of a government building in Oklahoma City.

He then began a cultural tour of some of the best-known sights in the city, including the spectacular 19th-century Kazan Cathedral and the refurbished Russian Museum, a storehouse of mostly 19th-century Russian paintings.

Clinton had begun his cultural tour under cover of darkness Thursday with a late-night visit to Empress Catherine the Great's summer palace outside the city.

"He is a nice president. I like it when a president smiles and he seems to do it a lot," said student Ivan Parfyonov, 24.

But he, like dozens of other people, were waiting to see Clinton more because they had been prevented by security measures from getting to work than because of any urge to see him.

Many were arguing furiously with police as they tried to persuade them to let them through the cordon that was thrown around each place Clinton visited. ()