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Last Updated: Monday, 1 May 2006, 13:07 GMT 14:07 UK
Moscow hires US for image revamp
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russia's hold on energy supplies has caused concern
Russia is hiring a US public relations company to improve its image as it hosts the G8 summit of world leaders, according to the Financial Times.

The government has completed a deal with US agency Ketchum worth millions of dollars, to advise Russia on how it should communicate with western media.

Russia's G8 presidency in 2006 includes a summit in July in St Petersburg.

The agency will address how to boost Russia's image as tensions about its strong position in the oil sector grow.

Gas supplies

President Putin's reputation has been under fire in recent months following the decision to sever gas supplies to Ukraine in January.

And most recently fears increased when Mr Putin accused European countries of increasing fears over the reliability of Russian energy supplies.

He said Russian companies could consider new markets in Asia if they were unable to operate freely in Europe - a statement interpreted by some as a veiled threat.

While Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin's deputy press officer, said it had decided to hire advisers last year, but he added that "[the presidency] didn't get off to a good start on the communications front".

"And this is connected to the misinterpretation [in the west] of what happened with Gazprom and Ukraine," added Mr Peskov.

"Perhaps if we had been already working then with some kind of communications company things would have been different.

US Republican Senator John McCain - a leading contender for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination - has urged for a boycott of the July summit due to Russian "authoritarian tendencies."

Other companies on Ketchum's client list include IBM, Kodak, FedEx and the World Economic Forum.

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