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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Welcomes Spanish King

President Boris Yeltsin welcomed Spain's king and queen to the Kremlin on Monday, marking the start of a three-day visit aimed at boosting economic and political ties between the two countries.

Yeltsin, looking stiff but better than at his most recent public appearance almost three weeks ago, greeted King Juan Carlos with a warm smile and a handshake at a formal ceremony in the Kremlin's ornate Georgievsky Hall.

Yeltsin's wife, Naina, kissed Queen Sofia on both cheeks and presented her with red and white roses after the four had stood for their national anthems.

The royal couple were then greeted by Russian officials, including Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

Yeltsin, whose talks with Juan Carlos on Tuesday were expected to focus on promoting bilateral trade, last met with the king when he visited Spain in 1994.

He said then Russia had a lot to learn from Spain, where Juan Carlos has overseen a dramatic political and economic transition since he took over from dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

In 1990, Yeltsin's plane crash-landed in Spain when he was visiting as an opposition parliamentarian, a year before he became Russia's first democratically elected president after the collapse of communism.

He underwent a disc operation in Barcelona and the team of Spanish doctors saw Yeltsin again in Moscow in 1993. Yeltsin visited them in Spain during his 1994 trip.

Yeltsin, 66, had a multiple heart bypass operation last year and came down with pneumonia in January. He recovered but looked unsteady during a visit to Germany last month.

Russia and Spain signed a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in 1994 but are keen to increase bilateral trade that Itar-Tass said rose almost 50 percent last year to total $1.87 billion.

Moscow's main export is oil and oil products while Spain exports foodstuffs to Russia, Itar-Tass said, quoting Trade Ministry officials, who predicted an increase in Spanish exports of meat, edible oils, fruit and vegetables this year.

Juan Carlos was also expected to meet Russia's leading market reformer, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, during the three-day visit.

On Tuesday, the king will open an exhibition of Spanish art at Moscow's Pushkin Museum, to include paintings by Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro and Salvador Dali.