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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Summit Sees Officials Hustle but City Calm

The gleaming black Zil limousines cruising through the streets of central Moscow on Friday were not ferrying Communist Party hacks to a Kremlin rendezvous. These Zils flew incongruous Union Jacks, Canadian maple leaves and Japanese rising suns from their fenders.


The Russian government provided a fleet of straight-from-the-factory limos to the visiting leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations, in town for a two-day summit on nuclear safety. President Bill Clinton, however, opted to ride in the U.S. Embassy's own American-made limousine.


For all the hype this summit has generated in the press, Moscow on Friday appeared to be taking the first "G-7 plus one" meeting in stride. A few banners welcoming the delegations hung above the streets near the Kremlin, and the police were out in force.


But for the most part, calm reigned in the capital, unlike the last major summit here on Victory Day last May. Then,Moscow turned on lavish ceremonies, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Allied victory in World War II, which were attended by numerous heads of state, creating a logistics nightmare.


This nuclear summit, by contrast, appears to be a business-first affair. The G-7 leaders will hold bilateral meetings with President Boris Yeltsin and with each other, and then convene in the Kremlin for the summit on Saturday.


The timing of the summit was fortuitous for city officials, who had already begun the yearly cleanup campaign several weeks ago in advance of the May Day and Victory Day holidays next month. Banners with slogans such as, "A capital level of cleanliness and order for Moscow," appeared back in March.


Whatever comes out of the summit, which takes place Saturday, one group of Muscovites will have benefitted enormously: the city's top-drawer hoteliers.


The big winner is the Radisson Slavjanskaya, where Clinton and an estimated 700 officials, flaks and support staff will bivouac for two nights, also renting out the hotel's large conference rooms for the 175-odd members of the press traveling with him.


Clinton has begun a tradition of staying at the Radisson while in Moscow, because it is the only luxury hotel in the city at least partially owned by an American company.


On Friday, the hotel looked like it might have been in Kansas City, its parking lot filled with General Motors cars and the Stars and Stripes hanging alongside the Russian flag over the entrance.


Over at the Metropole, the Canadians and Japanese encamped, providing a startling study in contrast. On one hallway, the Canadians occupy a suite of rooms for the press, where Friday afternoon a handful of people calmly typed on laptop computers.


Across the hall, the Japanese offices looked like a teeming corporate headquarters. Staffers hustled from room to room with cellular phones glued to their ears, and computers blazed on every table.


When asked if an embassy spokesman was present, an official looked up from his work and said, "We're all from the embassy. The whole embassy is here."


According to one Tokyo-based staffer, a veteran of the two previous G-7 summits in Halifax and Naples, just under 80 officials made the trip to Moscow, and some 100 Japanese journalists are also in town, feeding off the frequent briefings orchestrated from a press office brimming with rented electronic equipment and take-out lunches.


Other embassies are similarly swamped with summit-related work. Paul Smith, a U.S. embassy spokesman, said everyone on the Moscow-based staff, which numbers about 500, "gets involved in every possible manner."


"We joke that one of the good things about these summits is that the place gets a good cleaning," he said.