Siemens Signs Multibillion Deals With Russia

YEKATERINBURG, Russia (AP) -- The leaders of Russia and Germany met Thursday for talks and oversaw the signing of nearly a dozen deals between companies from the two countries worth billions of dollars.

In one of them, German engineering company Siemens AG contracted with Russian Railways for euro2.2 billion ($2.8 billion) for more than 200 new regional trains for Russia.

Siemens also announced a joint venture with two Russian partners to produce wind turbines for Russia as the country pushes to diversify its energy sector away from oil and gas.

The company also agreed to take part in the Skolkovo complex, a state project to try to build a Russian analog of Silicon Valley in a Moscow suburb.

Siemens earlier sold eight trains to Russian Railways that are now running between Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia's first high-speed train route. The German company will also supply 54 commuter trains for the Winter Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Germany is Russia's major trading partner with trade between the two countries topping $15 billion in the first quarter of the year.

Addressing an annual German-Russian forum, President Dmitry Medvedev invited German firms to invest in Russian companies that last month were taken off the list of strategic enterprises and now have no caps on foreign investments and shareholding. They include airports and factories ranging from paper mills to train car makers.

Medvedev also called on Germany, an EU member, to push the European Union to scrap visas for Russia if Moscow lifts restrictions for EU nationals.

Germany could streamline the procedures on the bilateral level, Chancellor Angela Merkel said and voiced the commitment on eventually eliminating visas.

"The urgency of this issue has been demonstrated at today's forum," she said. "Some bilateral projects cannot be implemented with the current visa regime."

Merkel pressed Medvedev on the issue of human rights in Russia at the forum. Thursday marks the first anniversary of the murder of prominent Chechen human rights activist Nataliya Estemirova.

"It is important that Russia continues to investigate that murder," she said. "In order to feel security in the legal system it's important that such high-profile and public cases be successfully solved."

Medvedev reacted in an uncharacteristically brash manner to a German reporter's question about an impending law which is expected to further expand the powers of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, a successor to the KGB.

"The law on the FSB is our domestic bill. Every country has the right to improve its legislation," he retorted.

Observers earlier said that the law is likely to be pushed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a former intelligence officer, rather than by Medvedev. But Medvedev insisted the law was drafted following his personal instructions.

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