Russia's Medvedev drops in on reindeer herders

Tue Sep 23, 2008 5:36pm EDT
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KANCHALAN, Russia (Reuters Life!) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev inspected one of the most isolated outposts of his vast country on Tuesday by dropping in on a group of reindeer herders nine time zones east of Moscow.

Medvedev was the first Russian leader since the Soviet Union collapsed nearly two decades ago to visit the Chukotka region, a sparsely populated expanse across the Bering strait from the U.S. state of Alaska, whose governor Sarah Palin is running as the Republican party's vice presidential nominee.

Medvedev was accompanied on the trip by Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of London's Chelsea soccer club who, until he stepped down in July, was Chukotka's governor.

Medvedev and Abramovich flew by helicopter from regional capital Anadyr to the small reindeer herding settlement of Kanchalan, a distance of about 100 km (62 miles).

Medvedev was met by members of the Chukchi tribe in traditional dress and was shown around a hut covered with reindeer skins. He then chatted with herders as they watched over about 3,000 reindeer.

Local people chanted "Medvedev! Russia! Chukotka!" as the Russian president boarded his helicopter at the end of his brief visit. The area is covered in snow and ice for much of the year but on Tuesday the temperature was well above zero.

<p>Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (C) poses for a picture with reindeer herders in the town of Kanchalan in the Chukotka region, September 23, 2008. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Dmitry Astakhov/Pool</p>